Georgina “Gina” DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, in April 2004. She was 14.
Michele Knight vanished in 2002, at age 19, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.
But all three were found alive in a home in a Cleveland neighborhood Monday night, police announced in a development hailed as a miracle by their families.
“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” the young woman told police in a frantic 911 call from a neighbor’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”
Police swiftly moved in on the house where the three women said they had been held and later arrested a 52-year-old man, identified as a former school bus driver. Two others, identified as his brothers, ages 50 and 54, also have been arrested, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told reporters late Monday. Police believe only the middle brother lived at the home, he said.
The men are being held in the city jail awaiting charges. An FBI team is collecting evidence in the house.
This story is amazing and heart breaking all at the same time. Amazing to think that three, now adult women could be kept prisoner inside a home on a densely populated street without anyone being suspicious of anything. Kept in conditions and with treatment worse than what is afforded the most heinous of criminals, these women have persevered and made it through at the least their first tunnel of darkness. Reality being they will have far to travel to see the truth light of freedom.
It always surprises me how the past frames our present. Jobs and experiences we had years ago come back so quickly when poignant stories such as this are told.
The news today brings me back to a time few people around me today know about me. In the late 80’s to early 90’s, I worked in the field of Missing Children and Sexual Exploitation as the Family Assistance Director for the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center here in Boston. Life and friends brought me into this group and immersed me into the world of the Missing. For three years, my life was consumed by the thousands of Stranger and Parental abductions and Endangered Runaways. I was brought into the lives of many suffering families, many confused and misunderstood teenagers and face to face with the harsh reality of the depraved world of pedophilia. I was privileged to hear the story of Adam Walsh and come to learn his tragic story and death. Meeting John Walsh significantly changed me as a person. His passion and need for redemption which could only happen through the creation of new Child Protection legislation was inspiring for all around him and awakened in me a more compassionate soul as a human being.
Although that time of my life has long since passed, a part of it lives on. I still keep up with the NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) happenings and my mind always engages when I hear the words “Amber Alert”. Now that I am a Mom myself, I frequently run through the “what if my child was missing” scenario and immediately my heart rate quickens. I know the statistics and they aren’t pretty….
When a child leaves home and never returns, it leaves a hole of a different shape than one when a child passes otherwise. It doesn’t mean the loss any more significant, but it prevents the closure a “natural” death provides. Although the law allows for a death declaration after seven years, these families never allow this declaration within their mind and hearts.
So prayers, vigils, balloons, ribbons and press attention carries them from one anniversary and birthday to another, all the while remaining hopeful for news like todays be received.
Today brings new HOPE to all families out there that perhaps their loved ones may still be alive and waiting for reunification. For most that won’t be the outcome and in a sad way, the joyful news of today will only serve for most as another painful reminder of their own loss.
I have many sad memories of my time working in this field, but I also was blessed to meet and assist many wonderful people and reunite families. I learned how the ordinary citizen can move mountains when inspired to do so.
Children are our most important resource. Each day we need to work together to make this world a safer place for them. We need to pay attention to our surroundings and step to what may seem even “a little off”. We owe it to the many others who could still be out there waiting to come home.
I hope and pray that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight be brought through this trip through hell and make it safely into the arms of their loved ones. May their years ahead be filled with light, love and happiness, for surely they deserve it most of all. ❤