First Child Recovered By Amber Alert Leaving Home For College

She made headlines when she was only two months old, becoming the first child ever recovered by Arlington's then-fledgling Amber Alert system.

Now, 18-year-old Rae-Leigh Bradbury is preparing to graduate high school and has some big plans after that.

"I don't remember any of it, but I know the story," said Bradbury, who lives with her family in Fort Worth.

"When I start thinking about it, I start to weep up," said her mother, Patricia Sokolowski. "I sort of cry because there's so much going, and it's all happening."

In 1998, Bradbury was just eight weeks old when she was taken from her family's Arlington apartment by her babysitter.

"It was definitely a feeling that I don't wish on anyone, that emptiness, that 'don't know what to do feeling,'" Sokolowski said.

Arlington's Amber Alert was still new, and when someone spotted the babysitter's truck shortly after an alert was issued, police found Bradbury safely asleep in a car seat.

"It's easy for me to talk about because I have her, but she's leaving me again, but not in the same sense," Sokolowski said.

This fall, Bradbury will attend the University of Texas at Austin, the first in her family to go to college.

"I'm honestly so excited," Bradbury said. "I'm just so excited to just get out and see Austin, like Austin is a little weird, I'm excited cause I'm a little weird, too."

A dedicated advocate for the Amber Alert System, Bradbury was at the White House in 2003, when then-President George W. Bush signed the national law embracing it.

"I can do all these things, I can go to graduation, I can get married one day, I can go to college," Bradbury said. "It's just mind boggling 'cause some people don't get that luxury."

"I'm very, very grateful," she added.

Since Bradbury was found, more than 1,000 children across the country have been safely recovered by the Amber Alert system, more than 150 of them in Texas alone.

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