Former captive Hannah Anderson attends fundraiser for her family in California
By Greg Botelho and Casey Wian
LAKESIDE, California (CNN) — Days after being rescued in the Idaho wilderness when an FBI agent shot her abductor dead, 16-year-old Hannah Anderson attended a fundraiser Thursday for her and her family near their Southern California home.
The teenager could be seen entering the Boll Weevil restaurant in Lakeside, a community of about 20,000 people located 20 miles northeast of San Diego.
Hannah didn’t speak publicly before entering the building, though her father later did talk to reporters. The media were invited to the fundraiser at the family-friendly restaurant but were not allowed inside.
“This is a small community that we are a part of, and the community came together putting on this great fundraiser for Hannah and hopefully for her future and healing,” Brett Anderson said, before he thanked local residents, family and friends, the media and law enforcement. “This is how Lakeside rolls.”
Hannah went missing after cheerleading practice in San Diego County, California, on August 3.
The next day, the bodies of her mother, 42-year-old Christina Anderson, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan, were found about 45 miles east in the burned Boulevard house of James DiMaggio, who had been considered a friend of the Anderson family.
That horror spurred a manhunt, which zeroed in on central Idaho after two critical clues: the discovery of DiMaggio’s blue Nissan Versa outside the city of Cascade and a sighting of the pair by horseback riders.
One of the horsemen recalled noticing multiple “red flags” during their brief interaction with the pair, including their brand-new camping equipment and the pajama-like bottoms Hannah was wearing.
Brett Anderson said Thursday that he’d been able to offer “our thanks and our love” to the horseback riders in a phone conversation.
“It was a chance encounter, but it did save my daughter’s life,” he said Thursday.
The dramatic ordeal ended last Saturday, after authorities spotted DiMaggio and his teenage captive’s campsite near Morehead Lake.
Hostage rescue teams had to hike more than two hours to get to the scene, local sheriffs’ departments said. Eventually, they got close enough, and an FBI tactical agent fatally shot DiMaggio, before whisking Hannah away.
Speaking Thursday about her condition, Brett Anderson said “she’s just happy to be here.”
“Hannah sends her love,” her father said. “She’s doing good day by day, and we’ll keep moving forward from here.”
One of her friends, Alyssa Haugum, said from outside Thursday’s fundraiser that she was looking forward to seeing Hannah in person and giving her a hug. They had communicated via Facebook, she said.
Haugum described Hannah, whom she knows from school and dance, as strong, funny and “usually really bubbly.”
“It takes a lot to make her upset,” she said of her friend.
The entire ordeal was surreal and scary, as it hit so close to home, Haugum said.
“It just felt like it was untrue: One day somebody could be with you, and the next day they are missing and you don’t know where they’re at,” Haugum said.
Then, alluding to her friend Hannah, she added, “But I knew she was strong. I knew she would come back.”
CNN’s Casey Wian reported from Lakeside, and CNN’s Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta. CNN’s Amanda Watts contributed to this report.
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