Whether or not we’d like to admit it, we no longer live in the simpler times of the mid 20th century. Our kids can’t play in the streets, chat on the internet, or even walk to school without at least some modicum of oversight. And while it’s not a bad thing that we have to watch our kids more closely, there is something to be said for the state of things today.
This story takes place in the modern age, with one family who had little choice but to trust that their daughter would make it safely to school each day, and would learn, to their dismay, how wrong they were…
Going to School
It was 7:45 a.m. on Main Street at McFadden Avenue, in Santa Ana, California and just as she did every Wednesday, 12-year-old Amy was making her way to school on her own. Amy attended middle school at the nearby Lathrop Intermediate School and was no stranger to this particular walk, but on this day, something changed.
Amy was rounding the corner when she noticed a strange, disheveled woman out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t make much of her, except that she seemed to be either very tired, very drunk, possibly homeless, or some combination of the three. Before she knew what was happening, the strange woman approached her…
Amy couldn’t stop the crazed-looking woman as she forcibly put her arm around her. The woman pulled the girl into an uncomfortable and unwarranted bear hug and began leading her not towards the middle school, but in the opposite direction. It took Amy a moment before she realized what was happening.
The homeless woman was holding her tight and speaking to her in Spanish. She told the girl not to cry and explained, in no uncertain terms, that “The demons are coming, Satan is here.” This alone was enough to send off the alarm bells in Amy Martinez’ head. Before she could say anything in protest, the woman shushed her again…
Though Amy wasn’t crying and wasn’t even on the verge of tears, the woman kept assuring her, in Spanish, not to cry. Amy knew she had to remain strong, she had to fight back her urge to struggle just in case the woman had a weapon. Still, that didn’t mean she couldn’t cry out…which she did, loudly.
What Others Saw
Meanwhile, the few other parents dropping their children off at the school that morning didn’t seem to notice what was unfolding around them. From what they could tell, it was just a frazzled mother struggling to deal with a rowdy, emotional preteen child. Someone in the crowd noticed the difference, however…
A woman who had just dropped her own daughter off at the school was driving past the scene on Main Street and McFadden when she noticed the struggling pair. Amy was fighting back in such a way that it didn’t seem normal, she thought maybe the girl was autistic or differently abled and was having a fit. But either way, she turned the car to investigate.
The good Samaritan had a kid of her own, so she knew what a real tantrum looked like. Her motherly instinct told her that whatever she was seeing was something else entirely. As she drove past, she opened her window to see if she could discern what the trouble might be from the conversation. What she heard shocked her…
Heard her Cries
She heard Amy Martinez crying out and screaming for help and knew immediately that this woman was not her mother at all. Like Amy, the good Samaritan didn’t know if a woman desperate enough to try a kidnapping in broad daylight had a weapon on her. She had to approach the situation carefully.
The woman pulled over to the sidewalk slowly and rolled down the passenger side window of her car. She called out to Amy and asked if she was doing alright. It was an innocent question, but she wasn’t at all prepared for the look of panic that Amy gave in reply. Amy responded with a matter-of-fact, “No”, and her eyes were screaming for help…
That’s My Child
The good samaritan yelled out the window towards the strange woman. “Let her go!” she shouted. “That’s my daughter you’ve got there! Let her go!” The kidnapper, taken aback by the woman’s demands, released the girl and took off in the opposite direction as fast as she could. Then she beckoned Amy to quickly get into the car.
Call the Cops
She took the frightened girl to school and sat with her for a moment. Amy wasn’t crying, but she was panicked, and it would do her some good to decompress from such a harrowing situation before they called the police. Once she had taken a moment, the anonymous good samaritan walked Amy inside and called the cops, meanwhile, the school contacted her real mother…
Mom is Contacted
Sandra Martinez, Amy’s mom, was sitting at home when she got the call. The school officials told her that Amy was alright but that she had very nearly been abducted while on her walk to school. “I have no way to describe how I felt when the principal told me,” she explained afterwards “You don’t expect it to happen to you and when it does you don’t know how to react.”
Swarm the Area
At the same time, the police were combing the area to try and track down the very disheveled looking woman who had tried to escape with the little girl. Officers swarmed through the neighborhood to catch her before she made another desperate attempt to take a child. In no time at all, they’d followed her trail…
The police finally cornered the suspect, identified as Claudia Hernandez Diaz, a few hours later. Diaz was arrested and is presumed homeless, just as Amy initially believed. Diaz was booked on suspicion of kidnapping a minor younger than 14 and Santa Ana police Corporal Anthony Bertagna was present at her arrest.
Bertagna explained to the press what he was told by the good samaritan. “She doesn’t know if it’s a mother having an issue with her daughter, but something doesn’t look right because the suspect is homeless and her hair’s messy,” The question remained though, why would she even try to kidnap the 12-year-old in the first place?
I’m Going to Live
Whatever the reason, Amy Martinez is certainly glad that she is safe these days. She considers the good samaritan a hero who saved her life. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to live,” explained the 12-year-old, who had believed she was never going to see her mother or father again.
From the moment the woman put her arm around her so tightly, Amy expected the worst “I thought that I was never going to see my mom or my family again,” Her parents, were more than appreciative of the woman’s response to their daughter being in danger, especially since she stepped in where others didn’t even bother…
“It’s a place where there’s a lot of cars and not one stopped until this lady came, in our eyes, she’s our angel,” says Cinthia Esparza, Amy’s aunt. The incident has understandably unnerved Amy, who has since abstained from walking to school on her own…just in case. “She won’t be walking by herself,” says aunt Cinthia.
See Something, Say Something
The corporal praised the girl’s rescuer and brought up the old maxim used in times like these. “We always say if you see something say something. Well, she saw something and did something,” he explained. “She saw something and she acted.”