Ohio kidnapping victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were celebrated today by the Ohio governor, John Kasich, for their bravery. The trio, who were taken and held by Ariel Castro between August 2002 and May 2013, received the governor’s annual courage award.
“Last year, the world heard a story, that words could barely describe,” said the governor. “It is a story of hurt beyond anything we can imagine, but it fortunately doesn’t end there.”
The governor praised their inner strength, and the great courage it took to break free and seek help. The opportunity for rescue from the Ohio kidnapping came for the trio when Castro left an internal door open and they were able to scream for help from neighbors. Two neighbors responded, Angel Cordero and Charles Ramsey, who kicked in the bottom of a storm door and allowed Amanda Berry to escape with her 6-year-old daughter. Ramsey became something of a media star in his own right for his retelling of times when he had barbecued ribs with Castro, in complete ignorance of what was happening in the house. “There was nothing interesting about the guy… until today!” he was quoted as saying.
The women are now household names in Cleveland after the rescue, as their disappearances had been widely publicized, and their happy recovery both shocked and delighted many. The governor hugged each of the woman as he praised them for ending their victim hood and becoming victors.
The woman had originally been abducted by Ariel Castro after each had accepted a lift from him. Castro himself had previously been married and reported for domestic violence, however, his wife, Grimilda Figueroa, had left him in 1996 taking the couples four children with her. She died a year before Castro’s crimes were discovered from a brain tumor. Castro was never charged for the domestic violence and went on to kidnap and imprison three women for a decade.
When the three women received their medal,s they were treated to a two-minute standing ovation, by far the longest of the night. Ohio was clearly in the mood to celebrate the kidnapping victims for their courage too.
The women involved in the Ohio kidnapping had been held under terrible conditions, sometimes chained for hours, often in the basement of the house. They were only given restricted access to food and bathrooms, and it was under these conditions that Amanda Berry gave birth to her daughter by Ariel Castro. They had been kidnapped at the ages of 14, 16, and 20.
Castro eventually pleaded guilty to 937 charges out of a possible 977 in a plea bargain that saw him imprisoned for life +1000 years. A month after starting his sentence he committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell.
The house where the women were held has now been demolished, with a relative of one of the women swinging the first hit with a backhoe. So far Berry, DeJesus, and Knight have not spoken about their time in captivity and have maintained a highly private presence, which was broken only this evening for their award presentation. The women seemed to still be on good terms, hugging each other as they received their rewards. Indeed many at the ceremony believed that these women deserve to be celebrated for their courage, rather than just remembered as Ohio kidnapping victims.
By Andrew Willig