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How Amber Alerts Got Their Name

05/27/2015 09:51 EDT | Updated 05/27/2015 09:59 EDT
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With the recent announcement that Amber Alerts will be coming to Canadians’ Facebook feeds, it got us wondering: how did Amber Alerts get their name?

Surprisingly, it isn’t because of the colour. In fact, Amber Alerts were named after a 9-year-old girl named Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996.

The young girl was riding her bicycle with her little brother Ricky when she was taken. Her mother, Donna Norris, said the kids were just supposed to go around the block, but Amber wanted to go just a little further. Unfortunately, the 9-year-old was then abducted by a man in a black pickup truck.

Four days later her body was found in a creek a few miles from her home. At that point, all evidence had already been washed away by a large storm and the running water of the creek. Because her death was such a mystery, and still is today, it inspired police to change their procedure for finding missing children.

The backronym America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response was created following Amber’s death in 1996 and the Amber Alert system was put in place across the U.S., Canada, and in some foreign countries. The program has now been credited with saving over 760 kids who have been abducted or gone missing.

“Amber's legacy is really remarkable if you look at what has happened and the lives that have been touched because one little girl lived and died – it's pretty inspiring,” said Ernie Allen, the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

This year marks the 19th anniversary of Amber’s death. As a result, Facebook announced it will post Amber Alerts to users in Canada. This Facebook alert system has already been in place in the U.S. since January and works by delivering alerts to only those who are in the search area of the child.

“So if a child goes missing in Ottawa, people in Toronto won’t see the message,” Emily Vacher, trust and safety manager for Facebook security, said. “It’s only going to be people who may have that critical piece of information that will lead to bringing that child home safely.”

Amber Alert programs are implemented in all 10 of Canada’s provinces; however the three territories have not yet done so. Amber Alerts are broadcasted only in critical abduction cases and when the child is 17 years or younger.

In regards to the positive impact Amber Alerts have had, Amber’s mother Donna said: “I have a lot of people call to thank me and everything. I run into them and they say, ‘You’re my hero. Thank you. You saved my child`s life.’ But I don’t consider myself a hero. I consider Amber a hero.”

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