Victim of infamous kidnapping case visits Shikellamy
SUNBURY - Elizabeth Smart was given by her mother a solid piece of advice soon after police in Utah rescued her nine months after she was abducted by kidnappers in June 2002: live your life.
Her mother told her, "The best punishment you can ever give him is to be happy. Live your dreams and do exactly what you want to do. Life is much too precious to give him another second. Don't give him that power over you," Smart said to a full auditorium at Shikellamy High School Tuesday night.
Smart was the special guest speaker at the Healthy Women Sixth Anniversary Party, hosted by the Sunbury Community Hospital, where she shared her story of abduction and survival.
Her mother's advice and the decision to not give her captors any more than they deserved was the second most important decision of her life - the first being the decision to stay alive, she said.
Smart was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Eileen Barzee from her Salt Lake City bedroom, raped and held captive against her will for nine months.
She was 14 years old at the time, excited for high school to start and looking forward to a vacation with a friend when Mitchell captured her and told her God wanted her to be one of his seven wives.
"This was something out of a horror movie or a nightmare," she said.
He took her through the mountains to a camp deep in the woods where he held her captive. It was here she made up her mind to continue living.
"I found something worth living for," she said, noting the memories of her family that kept her going.
Eventually, after leaving Utah, she convinced her captors that God wanted them to return to her hometown, where they were eventually apprehended in Sandy, Utah, about 18 miles from her home.
Smart held the audience's attention with her tragic, yet inspirational account of the traumatic events, at times, even adding comic relief.
"It's not what happens to you that counts, It's what you do with what happens to you," she said.
Since her safe return to her family, she has advocated for change in relation to child abduction, recovery programs and national legislation. She also travels around the country speaking about her experience and is the co-founder of the "Elizabeth Smart Foundation."
She said she would never say she would want to be kidnapped, but she said she was grateful for the opportunities the traumatic experience has brought her.
"It helped me become a voice to those who can't speak for themselves