Calysta Cordova is being called a hero after saving herself with a phone call

By Elaine Aradillas
Updated January 24, 2012 01:55 PM

When 9-year-old Calysta Cordova went missing last week in Colorado, it was her family’s worst nightmare.

But little did they know that their daughter was listening when they taught her what to do in an emergency.

Calysta dialed 911 from a convenience store in Colorado Springs last Friday after a man allegedly kidnapped her, police say.

Police responded and arrested Jose Humberto Garcia, 29, for investigation of abducting the girl. Garcia appeared in court Monday and was being held on $250,000 bond.

“Her mother always taught her to call 911 and to fight, fight, fight,” police spokesperson Barbara Miller tells PEOPLE. “She saw this as her only opportunity to get away.”

The ordeal began on Jan. 19 when Calysta never arrived at her Colorado home after school. As that Thursday afternoon turned into evening, Cordova’s stepfather Steven Ryno began to imagine the worst.

“We must find her,” says Ryno, who recalled the evening on Good Morning America. “It is getting late, it is getting dark, it is getting cold and I know my baby is hungry.”

An Amber Alert was issued and all that Ryno and Cordova’s mother Stephanie could do was wait.

‘She Saved Herself’

The next morning, Cordova and her alleged kidnapper, Garcia, were spotted walking along the road after his car broke down. A passerby took them to a nearby convenience store.

“She asked the clerk for a phone and called 911,” Miller tells PEOPLE. “She saved herself.”

A witness told local reporters that Cordova was in bad shape, with bruises covering her face. When Garcia walked in behind her, police say she yelled, “I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m waiting for my mom.”

Realizing that she had called 911, Garcia ran out of the store and was arrested at a bus station shortly afterward, police say.