Hannah Anderson Explains Communications With Alleged Kidnapper in First TV Interview (Video)
Kidnapping victim Hannah Anderson thanked her rescuers and offered an explanation for the suspicious communications she exchanged with alleged captor James DiMaggio in her first TV interview, which aired on NBC's Today Thursday morning.
The San Diego teen, who reportedly exchanged text messages and letters with her alleged captor James DiMaggio prior to her abduction, offered explanations for those suspicious communications.
Anderson said those were just to make arrangements for the family friend to pick her up from cheerleading camp.
"And he didn't know the address or what — like, where I was. So I had to tell him the address and tell him that I was gonna be in the gym and not in front of the school," she told NBC national correspondent Kate Snow. "Just so he knew where to come get me."
Anderson also said she and DiMaggio exchanged letters a year ago when he helped her get through a time in which she and her mother weren't getting along.
"Me and him would talk about how to deal with it," she told Today. "And I'd tell him how I felt about it. And he helped me through it. They weren't anything bad. They're just to help me through tough times."
DiMaggio allegedly abducted Anderson in early August. He also rigged his house to burst into flames, killing Anderson's mother and younger brother Ethan, according to authorities.
Anderson and DiMaggio were found in Idaho backcountry a week later amid a nationwide search after horseback riders spotted them. DiMaggio died in a shootout with FBI agents.
The San Diego teen thanked her rescuers and everyone else who tried to find her, saying "I'd like to say thank you. Because without them, I probably wouldn't be here right now."
Anderson said she's trying to get her life back together amid rumors about her relationship with DiMaggio.
"You are who you are," she said. "And — you shouldn't let people change that. And you have your own opinion on yourself, and other people's opinion shouldn't matter."
Anderson said she no longer considers herself a victim but instead a survivor, knowing that people were trying to help her.
"If I can get through this, I can get through a lot more," she said.
Looking forward to the upcoming school year, in which she hopes to make the varsity gymnastics team, Anderson said she knows it will be rough, but she knows her friends will support her. She also said she ultimately wants to be a San Diego firefighter.
Meanwhile, her family has denied suggestions that DiMaggio is the biological father of her and her younger brother, Ethan, despite the fact that he left a $112,000 life insurance policy to the kids' paternal grandmother. DiMaggio's family wants a paternity test, their spokesman said.
She told Today that she wanted to speak before her mother and brother's funeral to put to rest speculation about what happened to her, to offer thanks and to bring attention to Amber Alerts like the one that was sent out after her disappearance.
She also shared her thoughts on her mother and brother, saying of the former that she gave her a strong spirit that is helping her deal with these tough times. As for her brother, Anderson told the NBC morning show, "He had a really big heart," before being overcome with emotion.
The teen said she's paying tribute to her mom and brother with a manicure and pedicure. Anderson said she was sporting pink polish for her mom and blue for her brother. Similarly, she has "Ethan" and "Tina," her mother's name, written on her toenails.
NBC, which broke up Anderson's interview into two segments that aired on Today (one at 7 a.m. and another shortly after 8 a.m.), also promised more from the teen on NBC News Thursday night and Friday's Dateline.