It’s the stuff of a made-for-TV movie: three women, kidnapped as girls a decade ago in separate incidents, escaping their captor’s house after a daring, desperate shout for help. A neighbor interrupts his McLunch to kick in the door and save them, as well as one of the women’s 6-year-old daughter.
It’s hardly believable, and a producer might dismiss the story as improbable.
But these Cleveland women are flesh and blood, their disappearances well-documented, their escape real and right before our eyes – and a suspect in custody in the case.
We can’t imagine the joy the women and their loved ones are feeling today. Nor can we prod the imagination to venture into the dark room of what they might have experienced.
Neither can we fathom the despicable nature of the crime: What kind of repugnant wretch of a human being could live with himself while robbing three young women of 10 of their tenderest years? What perverse rationale could one possibly concoct to keep another human being as a beck-and-call prisoner for a decade, stuffed away from society and living only to please their detestable captors?
How could these girls/women have kept their sanity while serving indeterminate sentences for the crime of being young and female and vulnerable to predators?
And how could this have gone on, undetected, for as long as it did?
Perhaps that latter point says much about the state of American society – when the guy next door or across the street can be running a prison for innocents in full view.
That says something not very flattering about our neighborhood relationships in this day and age.
While the neighbor who rescued them, Charles Ramsey, has been fairly hailed as a hero, he admits to having had questions about the goings-on at the house next door as early as a year ago. Another neighbor “told me I was paranoid,” Ramsey told reporters. “I told him something’s wrong with that house. He told me, ‘Just leave it alone, Chuck.’ And you see what happened.”
Let that serve as a lesson to us all. If Ramsey had trusted his instinct and acted on it, those women might have been freed a year earlier.
But thank goodness he was in the right place at the right time to save them when he did.
This case proves yet again what we should’ve learned with some finality in the Elizabeth Smart case: You never, ever, ever give up on a loved one.
The Utah girl who was abducted at age 14 in 2002 was found alive nine months later.
The women in the Cleveland case were returned some 10 years later.
You never, ever give up.
Louwana Miller never did. She searched for her daughter Amanda Berry, and hoped for the best up until her untimely death in 2006.
Amanda’s joy at having escaped to freedom is tempered by learning that her mother has passed. But we hope she takes consolation in the knowledge that her mother never gave up on her.
All that we can wish and hope and pray for is that our loved ones would do the same.