They said the injured kids are all boys, but Jessica has short hair, Terrie Berger kept thinking to herself. But they would know. They wouldn't say it was a boy if it was a girl. Would they?
Berger tugged on her short red hair with trembling hands as she stood outside the North Valley Jewish Community Center in the Granada Hills area of Los Angeles on Tuesday. She tried to calm herself. Jessica is okay, she thought. She has to be.
Berger had been in a meeting at the nearby aerospace company where she works when her mobile phone rang. It was her friend Susie, who was always joking.
"Terrie, I heard there was a shooting at the school!"
"Susie, stop it. That's not funny."
"Terrie, I swear to you."
Berger rushed out of the room.
"Hey, where do you think you're going?" her boss called after her. She didn't answer.
Outside, she heard the buzz of helicopters. Oh God. She jumped in her car. In 10 minutes, she was at the community center where she had dropped off 6-year-old Jessica for camp just before 8 a.m. The little girl had bounded in, excited for another day of swimming, Israeli folk dancing and learning Hebrew.
Now the street was packed with television cameras and frantic parents with phones pressed to their ears, straining to see past the yellow police tape.
Berger tried to get through the crush but was ordered back.
She pulled out her phone and dialed her office, where her husband also works.
"Tell Gary to get over here," she said tearfully. "Tell him there's been a shooting and they won't let me in to get Jessica."
A few minutes later, Gary arrived and then rushed over to a nearby temple where police said some children had been taken.
Berger suddenly let out a cry.
There was Jessica, holding on to her father's hand, calmly walking down the street toward her.
"Oh!" Berger moaned. She rushed to the little girl and swooped her up, crying and planting kisses all over her face.
Jessica hugged her mother tightly and looked at all the cameras and police cars.
"What happened?" the little girl asked, puzzled.
"Mommy will tell you later," Berger said, squeezing her tightly. "Let's just go home."