'Hero' finds girl, 5, abducted from W. Philadelphia school

Nelson Mandela Myers with his wife, Janie, and their foster son, Gary, at the Upper Darby police station hours after he found Nailla Robinson, 5, at a nearby playground. The girl was taken from her West Philadelphia elementary school on Monday.
Nelson Mandela Myers with his wife, Janie, and their foster son, Gary, at the Upper Darby police station hours after he found Nailla Robinson, 5, at a nearby playground. The girl was taken from her West Philadelphia elementary school on Monday. (   DAVID MAIALETTI/Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 17, 2013

Nelson Mandela Myers was running a little late on his way to work early Tuesday when he heard what he thought was a kitten.

But as the 27-year-old father of two got closer to a playground in Upper Darby, he knew it was a child's screams.

"Help! Help!"

The Norristown sanitation worker was headed to the 69th Street Terminal to catch the Norristown High-Speed Line when he saw Nailla Robinson hiding under the slide near a ball field, dressed in nothing but a long, black T-shirt.

He crossed 69th Street, and she ran to him. The 5-year-old was wet and shivering from the cold and had a recent cut on her chin. Myers hoisted the child over the chain-link fence, wrapped her in his coat, and dialed 911.

"This is a crazy moment, right now, to see this child," said Myers, who was startled to find a child alone at 4:40 a.m. in the cold, wet weather.

Nailla was abducted from her West Philadelphia elementary school Monday morning by a woman who identified herself as "Tiffany," police said.

The girl was taken to a home, blindfolded, and hidden under a bed, according to a police source. She was later taken to the Upper Darby area and released.

The Upper Darby man now is being called a hero.

Philadelphia police said Tuesday night that Myers would receive the $10,000 reward for information leading to Nailla's safe return.

"We're lucky," Michael J. Chitwood, Upper Darby superintendent of police, said at a news conference attended by Myers and his wife. "We live in a society where people keep on walking. He got involved. He is a hero."

Myers said Nailla was so cold that he had a hard time understanding her name when a 911 operator asked for it. He didn't know he was holding the little girl who had been reported missing; he had not seen news reports of her abduction, he said.

Nailla told Myers - named by his father after the South African leader - that someone was chasing her and that she ran from South Philadelphia, where she lives.

"There is no way she could have run from South Philly," he said.

Nailla's grandfather said Tuesday that her abductors apparently dropped her off in Upper Darby.

As he held her close to keep her warm, Myers thought of his own family, he said: "She reminded me of my daughter so much."

Myers and his wife, Janie, have two foster children, Machia, 5, and Gary, 3, whom they are adopting. The couple have been married three years.

Janie Myers said she was not surprised that her husband stepped in to help Nailla.

"He's really a great guy," she said, calling him courageous and heroic. "I'm just so proud of him."


Contact Mari A. Schaefer at 610-313-8111, mschaefer@phillynews.com or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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