It was every parent's worst nightmare -- the knowledge that your child has been abducted by a stranger -- but Daniel Saxon is just grateful that the story ended without tragedy.
He spent some anxious hours yesterday expecting the worst after he learned his 6-year-old daughter, Lindsay, had been kidnapped from a school playground near their Glen Burnie home.
But Saxon's fear turned to relief when police told him that Lindsay escaped from her abductor in Howard County and appeared to be unharmed.
"I don't think it's really hit us how lucky we are to have her back," Saxon said today, between fielding calls from reporters, concerned friends and teachers.
It will be a long, long time, however, before the Saxons and some of their Glen Burnie neighbors forget the frightening experience, which has left them even more watchful of their children's safety.
Police said Lindsay was playing with her 9-year-old sister, Danielle, and another 9-year-old at the Point Pleasant Elementary School playground, which is about 2 1/2 blocks from the Saxon home in the 900 block of Point Pleasant Road.
A man pulled up in a faded green car and grabbed her about 3 p.m., Anne Arundel County police said.
The girl screamed and kicked as the man put her in his car and drove off, the other children said. Lindsay's sister tried to open the man's car door to free Lindsay, but he pulled the door shut, Saxon said. The two children then ran to a nearby house to get help.
The Saxon children had been taught to avoid talking to strangers who pretend to be running an errand for their parents, Saxon said. But the abductor apparently grabbed Lindsay without using any such ploys, he said. "I think they might have been better prepared if he had."
While they were in the car, the abductor told Lindsay that her mother had approved the trip and that he planned to take her to a mall, Saxon said. Saxon believes the man was trying to quiet the distressed child.
After she was released, the girl told police the man's car became stuck in the mud in a remote area near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and that they walked for a long while.
She told the man she needed to use the bathroom and he told her to go to a nearby house, the girl told police. When she got to a house under renovation in the Furnace Road area, the little girl told a man there she had been taken from a playground.
In the meantime, the abductor left. "I don't know if he just let her go," Saxon said.
The man Lindsay approached about using the restroom took her to a nearby house in Howard County and summoned police about 6 p.m., police said.
The girl was taken to a hospital for a checkup, and later was reunited with her family at Anne Arundel's Northern District police station and taken home.
Not long after the girl was found, police found a 1979 green Dodge abandoned in an isolated section of Ridge Road in Hanover, not far from the airport.
Police said the car was being processed for clues to the identity of the abductor. Police described the abductor as a white man with dark brown or black hair and a mustache. They said he matches the description of a man who attempted to abduct a 5-year-old girl near Crain Highway around 10:30 a.m. yesterday.
Saxon said Lindsay, who stayed home this morning, wanted to go to school this afternoon to show her concerned classmates that she was OK.
The school provided counseling and information to children and parents who were upset by the abduction, Deputy Superintendent C. Berry Carter said.
Also, additional security will be provided at the school for the next few weeks, although school officials declined to provide details.
The Saxons will be keeping an even more watchful eye on their children and at least one parent plans to accompany them on future trips to the playground.
Saxon, a printer who works for the state government, said he used to feel secure when the children were playing in groups near his home, but no more. "I think we're going to be a little touchy for a while."
Lindsay seems to be taking the scary incident quietly, Saxon said. "She isn't one to talk about it. She's saying she didn't like the man," her father said.