Blown away. That’s how I felt when I saw the remarkable story about the three women who escaped after a decade in captivity.
I couldn’t imagine their relief and elation at finally being free — a state of being we so often take for granted. But I don’t dare imagine the torment they endured during those years locked inside that rundown home.
Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michele Knight, 32, were all abducted in separate incidents several years ago. They escaped Monday when Berry, along with her six-year-old daughter, kicked and screamed at the front door, attracting the attention of neighbors.
Police descended upon the Cleveland neighborhood, rescuing the three women who have essentially “grown up” in conditions most of us can’t fathom. Their alleged abductor, Ariel Castro, 52, has been charged with kidnapping and rape. His brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, have been released.
Ariel, at least, will go through the justice system, but many Americans are already dreaming up their own ways in which justice for these girls would truly be served.
But fantasy punishments for Ariel won’t do the victims any good. Their torment — psychological, sexual, and who knows what else — was far too real.
Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI office in Cleveland, said this about their escape:
Prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over. These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.
The healing process may be long and painful, as it often is even in less traumatic circumstances. But these women have so much going for them, starting with courage and faith.
You don’t survive years in captivity without either of them.
They had the courage to try to break free. Who knows how many failed attempts they made before Monday’s final success. What a lesson to all of us, no matter what we face in our own lives, to never give up.
And faith. Surely they had a Higher Power in their presence comforting them through the fear, day after day, and faith that a glimmer of light was shining beyond the indelible darkness.
I remember reading Night, by Eli Wiesel, in college. His faith was shaken, but never lost, as he made the agonizing trip to Auschwitz with so many others dropping dead along the way.
You must never lose faith, even when the sword hangs over your head.
That could easily have been how Amanda, Gina and Michele felt, as if a sword hung over each of their heads.
Same could be said for others who feel trapped, whether in poverty, abusive relationships, abduction, addiction or something else.
Any darkness in my life is a mere shadow in comparison. Sometimes I get stressed at work. Stressed at home. But I have an amazing family, a great job and wonderful friends who support me. I get to tuck my two beautiful daughters into bed each night and wake them up with kisses each morning.
That scenario is a far cry from the world Amanda, Gina, and Michele experienced in Cleveland. Their journeys are far from over, but they are not alone. People around the world, like me, feel for them — devastated by their past, elated by their present, and hopeful for their future. They deserve a future 1000 times brighter than their past was dark.
And may their examples of courage and faith not be in vain.