Family, friends remember life, legacy of Polly Klaas

  • Violet Klaas wipes away tears as her husband Marc Klaas speaks about his daughter during a commemorative 20th anniversary event for his daughter Polly Klaas at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

The father and family members of slain Petaluma 12-year-old Polly Hannah Klaas surrounded themselves Tuesday with people they know understand their loss: dear friends, close allies in their life of child advocacy and others who have walked their path.

On the 20th anniversary of Polly's abduction, Marc Klaas said he and his wife, Violet, knew being alone was not an option — that what was needed was the people who had touched their lives and been part of their mission to save other children from Polly's fate.

More noticeable than the day's many tears was how much laughter and love appeared to have been born of the tragedy that two decades ago provoked so much grief.

Remembering Polly Klaas


"I really think, looking back, that she's inspired a lot," Klaas said of the girl who was taken from her home during a sleepover with two friends.

In an event that was part remembrance and part news conference for the child safety nonprofit he runs, Klaas sought to remind those gathered — many of whom had never met Polly — just who she was for the 12 short years she lived: a bright, fun-loving, animated child who loved acting but wanted to play baseball, too, and who cackled like her dad to the antics of "The Simpsons."

A photo montage projected on a screen captured the years she lived, from tiny newborn, to curly-haired toddler, young girl and lanky adolescent. She was at that point, Klaas said, "just beginning to realize life's potential."

He remembered talking to her on the phone a short while before her slumber party, telling her he loved her, and hearing it back.

"It was almost exactly 20 years ago this moment," he said.

And he recalled the words she reportedly uttered a few hours later as, her friends having been tied up, she was being forced at knifepoint from the home she shared with her mother, Eve Nichol, and a younger sister, who slept nearby.

"Please don't hurt my mother and my sister," she pleaded with the stranger.

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