Happiest Endings

#10

Elizabeth Smart

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Elizabeth Smart and her father, Ed, the day after she was reunited with her family

Elizabeth Smart and her father, Ed, the day after she was reunited with her family

On June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was taken from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, an abduction by knifepoint that had the entire nation holding its breath. Nine months later, faith and prayers led to what many call a miracle: Elizabeth was spotted on a suburban street, about 20 miles from her house, and rescued from the homeless, self-described “preacher” who kidnapped her. Later that year, I visited with the Smart family at their cabin in the mountains. We walked for a bit on a dirt road in front of the property she called her favorite place in the world. She shared what it was like being back with her siblings, and being free. She talked about feeling cold and hungry during those long months, and how she was called “evil” and “wicked” by her abductor.The most striking thing she said was that in spite of what had happened, she still felt like the same person. By now we know that Elizabeth’s ordeal was much worse than being cold or hungry. But this year, when she testified against her abductor, she described all that she had endured with unwavering poise and strength. She has refused to allow what happened to damage or define her. She is now 21, and in the church where prayers were once said for her safe return, she stood up before her congregation and spoke with pride about moving forward and giving from the heart. This year, she will go to Paris as a missionary. One more stop in an extraordinary journey, filled with faith and hope and courage. 

Couric is anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News.

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