Elizabeth Smart is celebrating the 19th anniversary of the day she regained her freedom following a horrific ordeal.
On March 12, 2003, she was reunited with her family after being kidnapped at age 14 and spending nine months in captivity. On Saturday, March 12, Smart, now a 34-year-old activist for missing children, posted on Instagram a photo of herself with her husband, Matthew Gilmour, and their three children—daughters Chloe, 7, and Olivia, 3, and son James, 4.
“I have always believed in Miracles but today marks the 19 year anniversary of the biggest miracle I ever experienced,” Smart wrote. “I just wanted to briefly say thank you to everyone who helped rescue me. Thank you to those of you who prayed for me, searched for me, and supported me all those years ago through today. I will forever be grateful. I am happy today, and feel so lucky to have found my husband and best friend, and to be the mother to my three babies.”
She continued, “For a while this dream felt far out of reach in fact completely unreachable. So today I want to say to those still searching you will always remain in my prayers and I refuse to lose hope that your loved ones will be found, and to those still missing don’t give up miracles happen, you deserve to be found, rescued, and to have happiness, and finally to those who are struggling along the way; no matter what point you find yourself, don’t give up. You never deserved to be hurt. You deserve to be believed, supported, loved, and happy.”
Smart ended her post with, “Everyone has a story and challenges, you are not alone. God bless all of you.”
In June 2002, homeless street preacher Brian David Mitchell kidnapped Smart from her parent’s home, abducting her at knifepoint from her bed, which she shared with her younger sister. She spent nine months in captivity, during which he raped her repeatedly and also forced her to wear a disguise in public while wandering with him and his wife, Wanda Barzee. After a passerby identified Smart after seeing the three walking on a street in the Salt Lake City area, police were called, she was freed and her captors were arrested.
Mitchell is serving two life sentences for kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity. Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and unlawfully transporting a minor. After spending nine years behind bars, she was released in 2018 and registered as a sex offender.
Last year, after appearing on the singing reality show The Masked Singer, Smart talked to E! News about how she has begun to share her story with her eldest daughter.
“Even now, she has begun to sort of ask questions,” she said about Chloe. “Occasionally, I’m doing a presentation or I’m on a Zoom call, and she doesn’t understand. So she asked me, ‘Why?’ And as her questions come up, that is how I gauge how much to tell my daughter.”
She continues, “With all my children, really, I certainly never want to hide what happened in the past, because every single one of us has a past. Every single one of us has had something happen in our lives. It’s unrealistic to think that we will all just have a perfect life.
We will all face hardships and struggles, in whatever form that may be, and so I have begun to speak to her as she asked questions. But with that being said, it’s not all at once. And it’s age-appropriate, to the best of my ability.”