Balloons and a photo of Amanda Berry hang Tuesday outside the home of Beth… (John Gress/Reuters )
On April 21, 2003, I was an 18-year-old senior at Ferndale High School in Washington state. I was about a week away from making the most important decision of my life so far: where I would go to college. I worked at Dairy Queen, where a sophomore guy I had a crush on would come in to visit me. I wanted to be a journalist, and couldn't have been more excited about my future.
On April 21, 2003, Amanda Berry, who would turn 17 the next day, got off work at a Cleveland Burger King, accepted a ride home from a stranger, Ariel Castro, and vanished. According to police reports, she would be chained in a basement, raped, starved, beaten and secluded for the next 10 years.
In 2006, I was a 21-year-old senior at Syracuse University in upstate New York. I was in love for the first time and lived with my boyfriend and four roommates. I was the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper. I still wanted to be a journalist, and while the thought of graduation already was making me nostalgic, I couldn't have been more excited about my future.
On Dec. 25, 2006, 20-year-old Amanda Berry gave birth to a child she conceived during one of countless rapes in the house she hadn't left in more than three years. The little girl was delivered by another captive, Michelle Knight, who became pregnant at least five times but was forced to abort through starvation and punches to the stomach. Amanda's baby lived but her mother died that year, without ever seeing Amanda alive again.
In November 2011, I was a 26-year-old copy editor at RedEye. I lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Lakeview with two friends. I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey for my friends, and we played Apples to Apples after dinner and probably drank too much wine.
In November 2011, 25-year-old Amanda Berry had been trapped in Ariel Castro's house for more than eight years, raped, starved, beaten and secluded. During that time, she, Knight and a third captive, Gina DeJesus, saw their families at vigils on TV. She must have known her mother was dead. Two neighbors called police that month after seeing and hearing something suspicious, but Amanda and the others were not rescued.
On May 6, 2013, I was a 28-year-old assistant editor at RedEye. I finished painting the kitchen at my new Lincoln Park apartment, went to a spin class, made pasta and a salad for dinner and went to work.
On May 6, 2013, 27-year-old Amanda Berry found a crack in a door, screamed for help and saved her life and the lives of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and her own daughter. She hadn't left Ariel Castro's house in 10 years of being raped, starved, beaten and secluded.
In the past 10 years, I grew from a teenager with big dreams to an adult who realized many of them and found many others. I've made a home for myself; have rich, full relationships with my friends and family; and I'm still excited about my future.
For the past 10 years, Amanda Berry was raped, starved, beaten and secluded in Ariel Castro's house. The horrifying details are all in the police reports. But thankfully, Amanda also has bravery and strength beyond imagining, and she miraculously survived. And while her dreams since 2003 may only have been of escape, she now has the freedom to be excited about her future.
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