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Hannah Anderson says she's 'hanging in there' in first interview

August 23, 2013|By Kate Mather

In her first interview since her abduction earlier this month, San Diego County teen Hannah Anderson said she's "hanging in there," admitting things have been "kinda hard."

The 16-year-old told NBC News her kidnapping, along with the slayings of her mother and brother, taught her "to just not hold a grudge."

"You never know when someone can be gone," she said.

The six-day search for the teenager and her abductor, family friend James DiMaggio, captivated the nation as it stretched across the West. The manhunt came to an end Aug. 10, when FBI agents raided a remote Idaho campsite where the pair were spotted.

Hannah was rescued safely. DiMaggio was shot and killed.

But nearly two weeks later, Hannah's comments on social media -- as well as new details from the case -- continue to draw attention to an already captivating case.

San Diego County Sheriff's Department officials have stressed that they believe Hannah was a victim and played no role in the crime.

Hannah has also fired back, telling skeptics on Facebook to "mind their own business" and "get a life."

"I can say and do what I want and I feel bad that it bothers you so much," she wrote on a "Prayers for Hannah Anderson" page.

On Thursday, Hannah's first interviews aired on the "Today" show — and she didn't back down. Calling herself a "survivor," Hannah said she considers social media an outlet that allowed her to communicate with friends.

"I connect to them through Facebook and Instagram ... it just helps me grieve.... I post pictures to show how I am feeling.

"I'm a teenager," she said. "I'm gonna go on it."

But she also acknowledged that the criticism on the Internet was hurtful.

"I didn't know people could be so cruel," she said.

Authorities and family say DiMaggio lured Hannah, her mother and brother to his home in Boulevard for one last visit, telling them he was moving because his home was in foreclosure. It was a trap, they said.

DiMaggio killed Christina Anderson and 8-year-old Ethan, then laced his home with incendiary devices, authorities said.

By the time firefighters responded to flames at the property and found the bodies the night of Aug. 4, DiMaggio and Hannah were long gone. A photo showed the two at a Border Patrol checkpoint 20 hours before.

In the NBC News interview, Hannah did not discuss the events leading to her abduction or what transpired until her rescue. But she did dispute information in search warrants indicating that she and DiMaggio spoke on the phone 13 times before their phones were shut off.

Hannah said they weren't phone calls — they were texts about where to pick her up from cheerleading practice.

"He didn't know the address or where I was, so I had to tell him … just so he knew where to come get me," she said.

She also spoke about letters she wrote to DiMaggio that were recovered from his home. Hannah said they were from a year ago, "when me and my mom weren't getting along very well."

"I'd tell him how I felt about it, and he'd help me through it," she said. "They weren't anything bad. They were just to help me through tough times."

Hannah is now staying with family in San Diego County. The community has rallied behind her family, hosting fundraisers and cheering when the teenager made a brief appearance. She told NBC News she is trying to get back to a normal life, hanging out with friends and getting ready for the upcoming school year.

She added: "It's going to be a little overwhelming with everyone and their opinions."


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Twitter: @katemather | Google+

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