The Tenacity of the Human Spirit


“I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened but you will face hell for eternity. From this moment on, I will not let you define me or affect who I am. I will live on, you will die a little every day as you think about the 11 years and atrocities you inflicted on us.” – Michelle Knight’s victim impact statement to the perpetrator.

The tenacity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.  I have been watching, on and off, today the sentencing of Ariel Castro.  This story has touched me deeply because that is my area of Ohio.  I grew up about an hour away and I distinctly remember these girls coming up missing.  My own son was very young at the time but I remember their parents pleas on the television.

Just in case you are not aware of this story, being outside the United States, I will rehash the ordeal these poor women went through and then maybe you too will marvel at their tenacity.  This account comes from the Huffington Post.

A police report brought to light more disturbing details of the kidnapping of three Ohio women imprisoned in a squalid house for about decade.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight vanished from the area within two years of each other, and were recovered Monday from a home on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland after neighbors heard Berry screaming for help. Ariel Castro, 52, is accused of having abducted, imprisoned and abused the young women, all of whom gave statements for the police report, which was obtained recently by several news outlets, including the the Cleveland Plain Dealer, NBC local affiliate WKYC and The New York Times.

Among the information in the report is an account from Michelle Knight, abducted in 2002, about how she was impregnated by Castro at least five times. Knight told police Castro caused her to miscarry by starving and beating her.

Amanda Berry, abducted in April of 2003, also became pregnant while being held in the house. Knight told police that she served as Berry’s midwife, and that Castro threatened to kill her if the baby did not survive.

Castro allegedly ensnared his victims by luring them into his car. Berry told police that she was walking home from work at Burger King when Castro pulled over to offer her a ride home, claiming that his son also worked at the restaurant.

Gina DeJesus, who vanished in 2004 while she was walking home from school, told police that Castro initially approached her in his car with his daughter, whom DeJesus reportedly knew well. DeJesus said Castro later returned in his car alone and said he would drive her to his house so the girls could hang out.

At the time they were rescued, the women were living in separate rooms on the second floor of the house. Earlier in their captivity they had been chained in the basement of the house.

Berry’s opportunity for freedom came when Castro went out for McDonald’s on Monday but forgot to lock the “big inside door.” An outer storm door, however, was still locked. Berry told police she was scared to try and open it because she feared Castro was testing her.

A law enforcement official explained to CNN that Castro allegedly tested the women frequently as a way to gain their obedience. The women told police that he would pretend to leave the house but would return quickly to see whether they’d moved. If they had, he would punish them.

Once Berry was free, police reportedly went inside and made their way to the second floor. The Plain Dealer notes that police found Knight in a bedroom on the second floor. She ran into an officer’s arms, reportedly saying to him, “You saved me.”

WKYC reports that the women recalled being allowed outside only twice in the decade they were held. Both times they moved through the backyard to the garage. Even then, they told police, they were forced to wear sunglasses and wigs.

A cousin of Gina DeJesus told the New York Times that Castro allegedly served the women cake to mark the anniversary of each of their abductions.

Since this report Ariel Castro has been sentenced to life in prison with 1000 years before he’s eligible for parole.  Michelle Knight was required to have facial reconstruction surgery after the damage this monster did to her face from beatings.

Stories like these, while making me sick, just always remind me of the human desire to live.  Children that go through such ordeals, or worse, never cease to inspire awe and admiration from me.  They survive the unthinkable and someone go on to live, it just astounds me.  Today, I wish to not focus on the monster that did this but instead to focus on the unbreakable spirit of the human soul.  To marvel in the freedom I enjoy and to put into perspective my minuscule little issues.  I can survive anything and I wish for nothing more than for these three women to go on to happy lives.  They deserve nothing but good fortune here on out, they’ve done their time in hell.


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