Tanya Rider's long, winding road to health and healing

Tanya Rider survived eight days trapped in her SUV without food or water in 2007. - Courtesy graphic
Tanya Rider survived eight days trapped in her SUV without food or water in 2007.
— image credit: Courtesy graphic

Tanya Rider spent her childhood facing traumatic situations, and in a twist of fate it may have been those years of struggle and strife that saved her life.

For eight days and nights in September 2007, Rider was trapped in her Honda SUV while her husband struggled to get police agencies to believe she was missing, and that he was not a suspect nor was it a planned a disappearance on her part. She was finally located through her cell phone.

For more than a week the 36-year-old Rider, who lives in Maple Valley, was trapped in a 25-foot ravine near 196th Avenue Southeast and Southeast Jones Road off state Route 169 living without food or water. She was hanging sideways from her seat belt, trapped by the steering wheel, dehydrated, starving and drifting in and out of consciousness.

She was finally found by the rescuers while her husband was being given a polygraph test by police officers to clear him as a suspect.

After the eight-day nightmare Rider was alive, surviving conditions beyond what anyone thought was possible.

Today, more than three years later, she and her husband are grateful for every day.

Tanya and Tom Rider have been married 12 years.

She has a written book titled “Missing Without a Trace” with Tracy C. Ertl and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman.

She attributes her ability to withstand the conditions to survival techniques learned during her youth.

“I had a pretty traumatic childhood,” she said. “But I could always go to beautiful places.”

Her ability to leave the pain of her childhood she believes is one of the reason she was able to hold on and survive.

In her book, the trouble of her childhood is documented, which included abuse from her parents and a troubled home life.

Prior to her accident she held two jobs, one at Fred Meyer and the other at Nordstrom Rack. The morning she went missing she had left work at the Fred Meyer in Bellevue and was returning home to Maple Valley on state Route 169.

She suppressed the memory of the days and night in the ravine once she returned home after months of inpatient treatment at Harborview Medical Center and extensive medical treatment that continues to this day.

The process of bringing back the memory meant recalling not only the horror of the eight days, but also details of her childhood.

Rider said Lieberman used hypnosis or “dream therapy” to open her memory.

“I remembered bits and pieces,” she said. “But I didn’t want to go under and remember.... Dr. Lieberman took me into a dream therapy state. My whole life I tried to picture a better place and that helped me.”

Some of the visions that came to Rider during the eight days helped her hang on to her life.

One was an eagle that landed on the hood of her car. She said the doctor described the eagle as “representing freedom and everything is beautiful, a link to God. I already knew God had a hand in helping me stay alive.”

She also said she saw her beloved dog Lady. In the book she describes the dog as sitting on the seat next to her during her ordeal in the ravine.

Although Lady had died a few years earlier, she and her husband were very attached to the dog.

Rider said when, “Dr. Lieberman took me under Lady was there.”

There was also a frightening image she still has no explanation for – a gray Jeep.

The first time the image of the Jeep came Rider said, “I went to the same position I was in (while trapped in the SUV) and I started crying.”

She said the meaning of the gray Jeep is still a mystery, but a gray Jeep was present in the surveillance video shot in Fred Meyer parking lot the morning she disappeared.

“If I see a gray Jeep I still get freaked out,” she said. “This is real mind blowing. Everything about it.”

Rider said she and her husband, Tom, hope the book will help others.

“I’m excited we can give other people the opportunity to not go through what I went through,” she said

Despite the trials and tribulations, Tanya Rider continues to live a positive life. Because of problems with her leg, she is not able to work, nor can she sit or stand for long periods without pain.

“But I’m happy with what I have,” she said. “It helps I am married to such a beautiful man. I can’t go places, but he doesn’t treat me like I’m a pain. We’ve been together 18 years and married 12. We don’t focus on the unhappy. The fact we are together every night makes us happy.”

Tanya Rider will be signing copies of her book at the following Costco locations:

  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 12-1801 10th Ave. N.W., Issaquah
  • 2-4 p.m. Feb. 12-8629 120th Ave. N.E., Kirkland, WA 98033
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 19-1175 N. 205th St., Seattle
  • 2-4 p.m. Feb. 19-4401 4th Ave. South, Seattle
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