Before she could do that, she had to grow up.
After Mike and Kathryn Ann died, her stepmom and grandparents decided all three of Mike's children should live together, at least for the next few years. Relations between children and a stepmom are tricky enough, let alone at a time of such vulnerability for everyone.
Shannon Spann had an infant, Jake, to care for and two stepdaughters to suddenly raise by herself. All the while, she grieved for her husband. "Before Mike and I got married," she says, "we prayed that God would make us a family, and we believe he did."
Yet Alison resisted. She fought back. She saw her stepmom as trying to replace her mother, and resented her. "I didn't want to have to deal with the fact that my parents weren't coming back."
Sometimes, she saw her stepmother crying, and couldn't understand why. "I was angry at her," Alison says. "It reminded me that it was real, and I didn't like that."
Her stepmother sees it differently.
"I wanted for us all to grieve together and for them to see the hard reality of that," says Shannon, who left the CIA in 2009.
Still, she admits she wasn't always as sensitive to Alison about the death of her mother "because I wanted to have that relationship with her -- and I regret that part."
"It's something grown-ups can't really appreciate," Shannon says, "the impact of what that really means to a 9-year-old girl, to lose both her natural-born parents within a month of each other."
The new family first lived in Virginia and then Australia, where they stayed from the time Alison was 10 to 13 while Shannon was on a CIA assignment.
Alison never told friends in Australia that her parents were dead. She just couldn't go there.
"It was just too much for me to comprehend."
After the family returned to the States, Alison spent her freshman year of high school at Langley High in McLean, Virginia. She became best friends with Becky Card. They attended football games, basketball games, chatted about boys. Becky says they "talked about everything normal kids do."
Sometimes, Alison would confide in Becky. "I had never had a friend who had endured so much in a lifetime. I was amazed she wasn't screwed up over it," Becky says.
Alison's life as a rolling stone continued. After her freshman year, she and her sister moved in with their grandparents in Alabama, a way of better connecting with her parents. Her half brother, Jake, remained with his mother, Shannon. Though they lived apart, Alison stayed in touch with her brother: "He looks just like my dad."
In Winfield, she finally felt at home. She attended the same school as her father. She excelled in academics and in track.
Her grandfather, Johnny Spann, found himself driving the girls to ball games, cheerleading practices, track meets, the movies -- at a time when all his friends were going on cruises and heading off to the golf course.
It was a job he relished.
I can never be your dad because you had a dad, he'd tell them, but I can try to do those things that your dad would've done for you.
He told them about their dad checking out the book at age 16 and knowing then that he'd join the CIA. He told them how their dad flew his airplane over football practice after he got his pilot's license.