Hannah Anderson has made her first public appearance since an Amber Alert set off a nationwide search that led to her rescue in Idaho after being abducted outside San Diego.
“In the beginning, I was a victim. But now knowing everyone out there’s helping me, I consider myself a survivor instead," she said. "My mom raised me to be strong."
Anderson, 16, was spotted by horseback riders in the Idaho backcountry, and her captor James Lee DiMaggio died in the FBI shootout that followed.
DiMaggio's house had been burned with Hannah's mother and brother inside, though authorities say the two had been tortured and killed prior to the fire.
In response to speculation about a number of texts and letter she exchanged with DiMaggio, known to Anderson and her 8-year-old brother as Uncle Jim, she said they "weren't anything bad."
The day of the abduction, DiMaggio was supposed to pick her up from cheerleading practice. She had texted him directions to the school, and told him she'd be in the gym waiting for him, rather than out front.
In letters discovered by authorities, Anderson had written to DiMaggio seeking advice for difficulties in her relationship with her mother.
"Me and him would talk about how to deal with it," she said. "And I’d tell him how I felt about it. And he helped me through it," Anderson said. "They weren’t anything bad. They’re just to help me through tough times."
The DiMaggio family called for DNA tests on Hannah and her brother Ethan, alleging one or both of them could have been fathered by James.
The family said they wouldn't understand why else a life insurance policy DiMaggio had taken out listed the boy and his paternal grandmother as beneficiaries
But an Anderson family representative dismissed the rumors, saying "Brett Anderson's DNA was used to identify the body of his dead son Ethan Anderson," in a statement. "Brett and Tina Anderson did not meet Mr. DiMaggio until the sixth month of Tina's pregnancy with Hannah."
One search warrant described Hannah's mother as the wife of DiMaggio's "best friend." Authorities have not released any suspected motive for the killings and abduction.
Anderson said "he had a gun and threatened to kill me and anyone who tried to help."
Hannah did not know what an Amber Alert was before she found out about her rescue efforts. She credits the system with helping those horseback riders all the way in Idaho alert authorities.