At the depth of her nine-month ordeal as a kidnap victim, Elizabeth Smart felt death would be better than the fate she was enduring.
Though she was liberated by the police, her mother saved her in so many ways and one of her strongest aspirations is to do for the children she hopes to have with her husband what her mother did for her.
Smart’s memory of her mother’s voice when she was in captivity, the unconditional love Smart knew her mother had for her and Mrs. Smart’s words immediately after her rescue gave Elizabeth the strength she needed for her emotional recovery.
Smart shared her story with more than 600 people as the keynote speaker at Vista Health System’s Healthy Woman event Thursday in Lincolnshire. For now she spends much of her time helping children develop self esteem through radKIDS.
Mother Teaches Daughter of Unconditional Love
Lois Smart began to plant the seeds of love and self esteem with her daughter from an early age. A few months before she was abducted, she was hurt by a girl at school who excluded her from a party some of her friends were attending.
“My mother said ‘there only two opinions that matter. One is God and He will always love you. You can turn your back on him but He will never turn his back on you. The other one is me. I will always love you no matter what. That doesn’t mean I will love the choices you will make but I will always love you,’” Lois Smart told her daughter.
Not so long after that moment, Smart was abducted from the bedroom she shared with her sister at knifepoint, taken to a mountain camp where she was held captive by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee chained to a tree where she could roam no more than 15 feet. She felt she lost everything. Mitchell and Barzee are in prison today.
“I felt so filthy, violated, worthless,” Smart said. “The ones (kidnapped children) who were killed, they were the lucky ones. Their death meant they didn’t have to keep going. They were killed. They were in a better place.”
During her captivity, Smart kept remembering the sounds of her mother’s voice and the love she knew her family had for her. That is when she decided to survive the ordeal. “My parents, my family would never give up on me,” she said. “That was something to live for.”
Freedom Arrive on a Utah Street
Nine months later freedom came on State Street in Sandy, Utah, when two people recognized Smart five minutes apart and called the police. “All of a sudden police cars appeared out of thin air,” she said.
An officer asked her if she was Elizabeth Smart, she hesitated for a moment out of nine months of pent up fear instilled by her captors, and then said yes. Not long after that she was reunited with her family in a Utah police station. Lois Smart started her daughter’s recovery.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” Smart said. “My mother came in and said, ‘Elizabeth what that man did to you is terrible. Don’t let him (Mitchell) take another second (from you). The best thing you can give him is not let him steal a moment of your life again.’”
Smart’s Passion Becomes radKIDS
Ten years later, Smart has made radKIDS an integral part of her life. “One in four females and one in six males have been abused,” Smart said. “We should tell our children what to do not what not to do.”
Smart wants all children to realize they are special and because they are special no one can hurt them and they can hurt no one. “It’s OK to tell,” she said of the advice she give abused children. “It’s not your fault.”
The organization offers a course and Smart spends her time reaching out to groups to teach the class and talking to children who can benefit from her experience.
Lois Smart’s influence came out again when a member of the crowd asked Smart about her future. She is not sure what she will be doing in 10 years when she is 34 but she has an idea. “One of my goals is to be a mom like my mom was to me,” she said.