A story of hope, love, faith and strength was told at the annual Children’s Treatment Centre’s Celebrity Walk and Breakfast.
Guest speaker Elizabeth Smart told of how was kidnapped from her bedroom in her parents’ Salt Lake City, Utah, home on June 5, 2002, when she was 14 years old.
Highly publicized, the world watched in amazement as the ordeal ended nine months later, and she was found alive, having survived a nightmare.
A decade since then, Smart is now married and speaks publicly about her experience, in the hope of helping others overcome their traumas.
“I’m so impressed that there are so many people here so early in the morning,” said Smart, before a crowd of 670 in attendance at the event held in the salons at the Cornwall Civic Complex.
Smart had praise for the CTC and its work, and was particularly impressed that it is run purely on donations from people in the community.
“This is a community who really cares,” said Smart. “Very, very, very few (centres) can actually say that they run off the donations of the community. I think that it’s something to be proud of. It really does take a community who cares about what’s going on.”
Smart went on to explain that her healing was possible, thanks in large part, to the support she received from her community, as well as her family and faith.
“I’m fortunate that I came from a community who cared a lot.”
Smart said that she was no different than any other child just about to graduate from junior high. The second eldest of six, she was excited to go to high school, happy to spend time with her friends. She thought her life was pretty average.
She remembers the night of her abduction. The last voice she heard was that of her brother, before crawling in beside her little sister, with whom she shared a bed. She said the next voice was so different from her brother’s.
“I have a knife at your neck, don’t make a sound, get up and come with me,” Smart recalls. “I could feel the knife lying right across my neck and in that moment I knew that I didn’t have a choice.”
Smart said that she complied then, and for the next nine months of her captivity, because she didn’t know if he’d already gone through her home and hurt her family.
“I didn’t know if they were still alive, but I did know that my sister lying next to me, she was still alive, even if the rest of my family was hurt I didn’t want her to get hurt. So I got up and did exactly as this man said.”
Her terrifying story continued as she recounts being forced up the mountains that surround Salt Lake City, to a make-shift camp where she would be held captive and repeatedly sexually assaulted.
Her nightmare ended on March 12, 2003, when a police officer asked “are you Elizabeth Smart.”
“It took me a moment to respond,” she said.
Her captors were arrested and eventually convicted.
Throughout her healing, Smart says that the best piece of advice she received was from her mother.
“What this man has done to you is terrible, he’s taken nine months of your life that you’ll never get back, but don’t let him take another second of your life,” said Smart. “The best punishment that you yourself could ever give him is to be happy, to follow your dreams and to do exactly what you want to do.”
“This goes for every one of us,” said Smart. “We can walk away from this. It’s not really what happens to us that defines us, it’s what we choose to do with what happens to us.”