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Abby says it's incredible to be home; mom tells TODAY daughter did not run away

July 28. 2014 9:21AM

CONWAY – In her first direct communication with the public since returning home, Abigail Hernandez issued a joint statement with her mother this morning, saying it is “an incredible feeling” to be home.

“I wish that I could personally thank everyone who looked for me,” said Hernandez, 15, who returned home a week ago Sunday night after disappearing for nine months.

“My gratitude is beyond words. It's an incredible feeling to be home and I believe in my heart that your hopes and prayers played a major role in my release. Thank you all for the welcome home,” she said.

Abigail's mother, Zenya Hernandez, who on Monday morning told the Today Show that Abigail is not pregnant and did not run away from home, added that her daughter's health is the top concern.

“We are extremely and exceptionally straight out busy. Our number one priority is to address Abby's health and medical concerns. Our next, and equally important priority is to fully cooperate with the investigators,” Zenya Hernandez said.

“In the very few moments that we have away from the healthcare and law enforcement professionals, we try to spend some “normal” and happy time together.

“We literally have no time to sleep. Please know that we appreciate you and we thank people of this community, New Hampshire, the USA, and everywhere! Love, The Hernandez Family.”

The show aired a video from the Hernandez family appearing to show Abigail hugging a close friend upon her Sunday night return.

The sketch of a man police said drove Abigail Hernandez away on Oct. 9.

Zenya Hernandez said on the TODAY show she is determined to find out who was responsible for taking her 15-year-old daughter. 

Abby, as she is known, returned July 21, evoking more questions about her disappearance than answers. She vanished on her way home from school on Oct. 9, 2013. Law enforcement officials are now searching for a man in connection with her disappearance, and the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office released a sketch of a man based on information Abby provided.

However, investigators have released no details concerning what happened to Abby or where she had been.

“I feel like they just took and ripped something out of our souls,'' Zenya Hernandez, told TODAY's Natalie Morales in an exclusive interview. “And just as I swore that I'd find her, I'll find the person. I'll find out what happened."

Police have questioned Abigail and Zenya since her return but are not releasing any details about what may have happened to Abby.

Zenya Hernandez said she was speaking out to dispel rumors about what may have happened to her daughter during the time she was gone.

"The majority of people somehow believe that she was pregnant,'' Zenya said. "She was not. She did not run away. I firmly believe that. As for her knowing the individual, I firmly believe that she did not know the individual."

When she returned, Abby was wearing the same clothes as the ones she was wearing on the day she disappeared. Her mother said Abby was very thin and she was shocked by her physical appearance.

"She had a look in her eyes I've never ever seen before, and that's something that's haunting me and I think will haunt me the rest of my life," Mrs. Hernandez told TODAY.

Both were overwhelmed with emotion after Abby's return.

"It's a lot,'' Zenya said. “We're just taking it day by day. We just stood and looked at each other and then we hugged, and then I said, 'Thank God you're home, thank God you're home.'''

Family members searched relentlessly for Abby, creating the website Bring Abby Home. A $60,000 reward – which included $10,000 from Mrs. Hernandez, and $30,000 from her ex-husband – was posted for information leading to her safe return.

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