The two girls from Houston, Texas, who were reported missing earlier this week have been found safe and unharmed after an anonymous woman saw them on the news and spotted them while she was out. Mary Tran Le and Tianny Granja were believed to have run away from home because of a Facebook "game" known as the "48-Hour Challenge," which asks kids to fake running away and stay away from social media for 48 hours in exchange for social media fame and notoriety.
The two teenagers disappeared on Tuesday and their parents were horrified to learn that they had never made it to school.
The girls' parents said they last saw their daughters, Mary Tran Le, 13, and Tianny Granja, 12, around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday as they each left home to walk toward the school bus, according to The Daily Beast. Neither girl, however, ever made it to Owens Middle School.
Tianny's mother, Dayanna Gomez, was the first to be notified that her daughter was not in class. "It is the school protocol to call the parents when children don’t show up for school in the morning,” a spokesperson for the middle school told reporters. “That’s what we did on Tuesday morning.”
The parents then reportedly tried to reach their daughters' cellphones, which were “always on them” and were horrified to learn both of their phones were turned off.
“That’s when I knew something was wrong,” Gomez said.
Parents of the girls said they believe the girls were doing a viral challenge because they were talking about it days before they both disappeared.
Before the girls were found, their worried parents started to consider that they might be participating in the 48-Hour Challenge — a "game" that originated on Facebook that asks participants, mostly teens, to go "fake missing" for 48 hours for the sake of social media fame. They earn points for every social mention of their disappearance.
"They were talking about the challenge the other day,” Gomez recalled. “I just want to find my daughter, and I hope she is just hiding and not in danger.”
Authorities believed the girls discovered the challenge after 13-year-old Diana Clawson pulled a similar stunt in January. After a nationwide search for the middle schooler, she was discovered 24 hours later, hiding under her bed surrounded by shoes. Her mother, however, denies that she was involved with the viral Facebook challenge.
In this case, another student at Mary and Tianny's school had reportedly given school administrators a note that they had been abducted, explained KHOU 11, which only made their parents more frantic.
“I need the girls, whoever has them,” Gomez said after their disappearance. “Please turn them into the cops, because everybody’s looking for them."
It was only when a stranger saw the girls walking down the street and recognized them that this "game" finally came to an end.
Investigators said an anonymous woman spotted Mary and Tianny and recognized them from the national news coverage. She convinced the girls to get in her car and tell her where they lived. She drove the girls home Thursday evening. One of the girl's parents shared that her daughter arrived home just after 9 p.m.
The mom also added that the woman who found her daughter did not want to deal with the police, so she left after dropping the girl off.
A spokesperson for the Rock Hill Police Department is urging parents to have a serious conversation with their kids about these types of viral challenges. "Police take missing children cases very seriously, and we always immediately send out a ton of resources because we know that every second counts,” the spokesperson said. “This challenge is extremely dangerous because it takes away resources for another person in need.”
This post was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.