By Dave Andrusko
As the father of three daughters, few stories ever hit me as hard as the trial of Ariel Castro who kidnapped three women and treated them with unimaginable brutality over a span of 11 years. The three women were Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, who was the first to be abducted in 2002.
Knight was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by Castro, a local school bus driver who committed suicide one month after being sentenced on 937 counts of rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder.
Today is the one year anniversary of their rescue. On Monday’s “Today Show,” Michelle Knight talked with Savannah Guthrie. Michelle has a new book coming out, “Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings.”
Obviously, I have not read “Finding me,” but I came away from her brief interview incredibly impressed with Knight and stunned by her bravery, composure, an utter determination not to allow Castro to ruin the rest of her life.
Guthrie (like most of us, I suspect) was “blown away” that Knight could say that she had forgiven Castro. “How is that possible?”
“If I did something wrong, even if it was a small thing, I would want somebody to forgive me, so I can forgive him for what he done wrong because that’s the way of life.”
“When you first found out that he had died in prison,” Guthrie asks, “what was your first reaction?”
“I was saddened by it but also confused at the same time. Like why would he hurt his children like that? Why would he leave them?”
Guthrie asks, “You were saddened by it? You really were? Why is that?”
Knight answered, “He was a human being, and every human being needs to be loved, even though they did something wrong.”
Those who followed the trial and the details of how Castro terrorized the women may remember that Castro threw Knight down the stairs to cause her to spontaneous abort her baby. (Castro forced the women to abort a multiple number of times.)
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What they may not know is when Berry became pregnant, Castro threatened to kill Knight if Berry’s baby did not survive.
“It was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth,” said Frank Ochberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, who in the pre-sentencing phase of the trial evaluated for the court the emotional toll that the ten years of captivity had on the women. Michelle “breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing.”
In his evaluation, Dr. Ochberg also wrote that Knight suffered “the longest and most severely.” At other times, he explained, this same courageous young woman “interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and sexual trauma.”
Guthrie referred to a prior conversation with Knight where she told Guthrie that her faith was what kept her going “even in the darkest times.” So “How were you able to keep your faith, and why did you?”
“The love of my son helped me keep the faith that I had,” Knight said. (Joey is now 14. He was adopted during the time Knight was missing. Knight said she was “very proud” of his accomplishments.)
Finally, Guthrie asked Knight “what is the best part of having your own apartment and living freely?”
“Being able to wake up in the morning, make a cup of coffee, watch tv and listen to music, and just look at the beautiful sky.”
What would you want like people to know about you and your new life?” Of all her answers this one perhaps best sums her invincible courage.
“I would want people to know I am doing just fine.”