SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The town where Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped 18 years ago celebrated her astounding reappearance with a parade Sunday while she remained secluded with her family in northern California.
Dugard's former classmates and teachers were among those who took part in the one-mile march along South Lake Tahoe's main drag to celebrate Dugard's safe return. She was snatched from a school bus stop in the resort town in 1991 at the age of 11.
"We just want her to know that we love her and support her," said Jillian Broadfoot, 30, who attended Meyers Elementary School with Dugard at the time. "I think Tahoe lost its innocence with the kidnapping, and hopefully her return restores a little faith here."
South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Terry Daniels estimated 2,000 people took part in the parade and another 500 people joined them at a rally afterward. Most wore pink attire or held pink balloons in recognition of Dugard's favorite color. The parade route was lined by pink ribbons on trees.
Some participants yelled out, "Jaycee, we love you." Others wore pink T-shirts with the message, "Jaycee, Tahoe (Hearts) You."
Meghan Dorris, 28, of Stateline, Cali., was among Dugard classmates who started a pink ribbon campaign when she was she abducted to show their hope for her safe return.
"It really haunted us over the years, and I'm just excited to get her back," Dorris said. "Putting myself in her place, I can't imagine what she went through. I wish her the best in the healing process and hope she can lead a normal life."
Sunday's parade followed the reverse route of a march held on the 10th anniversary of Dugard's abduction. Missing person posters that volunteers handed out in the days after she disappeared in 1991 were stacked near the start and updated with large black circles with slashes drawn through them.
Dugard had been living in the South Lake Tahoe area with her mother, stepfather and infant sister for less than a year when she was snatched off the street. Her stepfather has said they moved there from southern California partly because they thought it would be safer.
Phillip Garrido, 58, and his wife, Nancy Garrido, 54, have pleaded not guilty to 29 counts of kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment in Dugard's disappearance.
Police say the Garridos held Dugard captive in a backyard encampment of tents and sheds in Antioch, Calif., and Garrido fathered two children with Dugard. Both Garridos are being held without bail.
Karen Gillis-Tinlin, principal of Meyers Elementary when the kidnapping occurred, said she can't recall a happier day or a larger throng at Tahoe.
"All I want to do is cry right now," she said. "I feel overwhelming joy and happiness. Obviously, Jaycee hasn't been forgotten. She has remained in her minds and hearts all these years."
She and classmates remembered Dugard as quiet, friendly and well liked.
"She could have been anyone's child, and that's why you personalize it," Gillis-Tinlin said. "You think, 'It could have been my child who was kidnapped.'"
At a rally afterward, law enforcement officers and representatives of the sponsoring group Soroptimist International paid tribute to Dugard and her family.
"We wish they could be here today, but we want to reach out and let them know we love them," said Brooke Laine of the Soroptimists group.
El Dorado County sheriff's Lt. Les Lovell said the Dugard case teaches an important lesson.
"I was suspecting that we would never see her again," he told the crowd. "Her story shows that anytime there's hope we need to keep hope alive."
Pink T-shirts and cupcakes were sold at the rally, with proceeds going to the Jaycee Dugard Family Fund.