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August 11, 2004 » 11:22 am

Amber Alert in Action

On Monday, I found myself in the middle of a car chase. More importantly, I saw Amber Alert working first-hand.    (23L)

I was driving south on 101 to Campbell from Redwood City for lunch and a slew of meetings. As I drove through Mountain View, I saw an Amber Alert on an electronic billboard, which said that a girl had been abducted in a blue Land Rover. I noted the first few numbers of the license plate in my head, then thought about how great Amber Alert was, and how interesting it would be to see it in action. I was thinking about how Amber Alert could potentially use Instant Messenging in cell phones when I saw the second notice on the sign at Great America in Santa Clara.    (23M)

In San Jose, I merged onto 17 towards Campbell, and a few minutes later, I saw flashing lights in my mirror. I was running a bit late for my lunch appointment, so I glanced at my speedometer to see if I were in trouble, and to my relief, I discovered that — thanks to traffic — I was right at 65 miles per hour.    (23N)

Checking my mirrors again, I noticed the blue SUV behind me change to the fast lane. I remember thinking, “That’s strange. Makes more sense to switch into the slow lane.” Yes, I can be slow at times. As the SUV zoomed past me, I noticed “Land Rover” on the tire cover and recognized the first few letters of the license plate. The three police cars in pursuit confirmed what had slowly dawned on me. That was the kidnapper.    (23O)

I fully realize that if I were truly cool, I would have captured the chase on my cell phone camera and moblogged it immediately. Folks would have seen the chase snapshot live, rather than having to wait for this account two days later. In my defense, I was calm enough to do it. As I watched all of this unfold, I actually called my friend and told him that I was in the middle of a car chase and would be a few minutes late. Unfortunately, my cell phone is four years old. It doesn’t have a camera, and it won’t connect to the Internet.    (23P)

I can happily report that the police did eventually catch the culprit (in San Luis Obispo, about five hours south of San Francisco), and the girl is safe and sound.    (23Q)

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