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Pam Curry can still remember the way Amber Hagerman yelled her name when she walked into the room.
“She would smile every time I came to see her,” the WFAA news producer told Oxygen.com. “She’d go, ‘Pam!’ and I’d say, ‘Amber!’”
This is the kind of memory that comes to Curry’s mind when she sees an Amber Alert, the system that alerts people to missing and endangered children in the area. Because, as the new Peacock documentary “Amber: The Girl Behind the Alert” explains, it was Amber Hagerman’s kidnapping that inspired the system.
The 9-year-old went missing while riding her bike in the small town of Arlington, Tex. on Jan. 13, 1996. A neighbor called police to report that he had seen a white or Latino male pick Amber up off her bike and throw her in the back of a black pickup truck before speeding out of the abandoned grocery store parking lot, according to the documentary.
Curry had met Amber, her brother Ricky and her mother, Donna Williams, while filming a documentary on what it’s like to live on welfare. Through this experience, she came to know and adore Amber, who she described as a “bright light” and an eager student.
“That Christmas she wanted a teacher Barbie — that was what everybody wanted. And I looked everywhere to find one, but they were all sold out,” Curry shared. “I would have given anything if I could have gotten one of those for her.”
Her happy experience filming the family during those few months stands in stark contrast to the events of 1996.
She told Oxygen.com about the moment she learned Amber had been taken, recalling Donna’s tearful phone call in which the mother explained what had happened to the 9-year-old.
“My heart just sunk because I knew from what she described that it was not good,” Pam said.
Amber’s remains were ultimately found in a creek five days later — the same day that the welfare documentary was due to air on WFAA. A medical examiner would later determine she died from stab wounds to the neck.
To this day, the crime remains unsolved despite the many hours spent investigating Amber’s disappearance.
As investigators sought to find Amber's killer, journalists and other Texas locals, including Amber's mom, worked to create the Amber Alert. By October of that year, the program was adopted in Texas, and in 1998, the first Amber Alert was issued, resulting in the recovery of 2-month-old Rae-Leigh Bradbury.
Though Curry still wants Amber’s killer apprehended, she is at peace knowing that the little girl’s death resulted in the creation of the Amber Alert, saying, "For her family, and for those of us who were privileged to get to know her before that happened, it is something that we can hold on to and it does help."
To learn more about the case, watch “Amber: The Girl Behind The Alert,” streaming Jan. 17 on Peacock.
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