Terry Probyn came home late from her second job and stepped outside her home in Riverside to gaze at a large, bright full moon on the night of Aug. 23, 2009.
"OK, Jaycee, where the hell are you?" Probyn called out, continuing a dialogue with her daughter, Jaycee Lee Dugard, who had been kidnapped 18 years earlier.
That same night, 420 miles to the north, Dugard had "an uncontrollable desire" to look up at the moon from the backyard of a convicted sex offender's house in Antioch.
"It was full and it made her think of me," Probyn said.
Three days later, Dugard and the two daughters she had during her captivity were freed from the clutches of Phillip Garrido, who is now serving a 431-year prison sentence for kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment.
Probyn, 53, held a crowd of about 300 people spellbound Tuesday in Santa Rosa as she recounted the "18 hellish years" of separation from Dugard, who at age 11 was snatched from a South Lake Tahoe street on June 10, 1991 in one of California's most notorious kidnappings.
Probyn was the guest speaker at a Sonoma County Crime Victims' Rights Week event at the Family Justice Center on Mendocino Avenue.
It was just the second time she had told her story in a public setting, Probyn said.
"I'm just a mom," she told a crowd that included all five Sonoma County supervisors, District Attorney Jill Ravitch, Sheriff Steve Freitas and numerous law enforcement officials and victims' advocates. "I'm up here shaking."
Probyn said she bears "an overwhelming sadness and incredible anger" over the "18 hellish years" of separation from her daughter.
But unlike many other crime victims, Probyn said her story had a "happy ever after" outcome. She is now reunited with Dugard and her granddaughters, aged 14 and 17, living in an undisclosed location in California.
Dugard was awarded a $20 million payment in 2010 by the California state Legislature, based on her claim that state parole agents had not adequately monitored Garrido, abetted by his wife, Nancy, who is serving 36 years to life in prison.
The lunar connection between Probyn and her daughter dated back to Dugard's childhood when the family lived in Anaheim and watched Disneyland's nighttime fireworks, followed by the moon's appearance.
"I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me," the two would say, Probyn recalled. "I love you to the moon and back," they also said.
Shortly after the kidnapping, Probyn said that South Lake Tahoe authorities told her the chances of finding her daughter, after 72 hours had passed, were "slim to none."
She never bought it.
"I kept Jaycee in my heart," she said. "I could not and I would not let go of her."
That doggedness caused her divorce from Jaycee's stepfather, Probyn said. Over the years, she said she talked to her daughter "through the moon."
"I told her I missed her and I loved her," she said.
Jaycee was abducted nine months after the family moved from Southern California to Tahoe, thinking it was a safe community.
On that fateful morning, Probyn said she was in a rush to get to work, said goodbye to her younger daughter, Shana, then 18 months old, but not Jaycee.