The first child ever rescued by a successful Amber Alert is headed to college.
Eighteen years ago, Rae-Leigh Bradbury was taken from her home in Arlington, Texas at just eight weeks old by a babysitter.
"When I start thinking about it, I start to weep up," her mother, Patricia Sokolowski, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. "I sort of cry because there's so much going, and it's all happening.”
Two days after Bradbury disappeared, the newly created Amber Alert system, named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington two years before, helped someone spot the babysitter’s turquoise truck.
It only took 90 minutes.
Bradbury was found by police asleep in a car seat. The infant was dirty and hungry but otherwise safe.
Related: Watch the full report on NBCDFW.com
Now, as Bradbury is set to attend the University of Texas-Austin in the fall, Sokolowski is emotionally preparing to deal with an empty nest.
"It's easy for me to talk about because I have her, but she's leaving me again, but not in the same sense," Sokolowski told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Since the Amber Alert system was first implemented, providing early warnings for finding abducted children, it has gone on to save nearly 1000 children nationwide. Today, it’s in use in all 50 states and 22 countries around the world. Alerts come via cell phones, on social media, physical billboards and more.
In 2003, Bradbury was in attendance when then-president George W. Bush signed a law encouraging states to adopt the system.