By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
Poised and beautiful, Elizabeth Smart was a compelling speaker for the Fifth Annual Healthy Woman banquet Thursday night at the I.O.O.F. Event Center in Corsicana.
More than 600 people attended, and the event was sold out weeks in advance based on the fame and reputation of the speaker. Smart became internationally famous after she was kidnapped as a young teen and held for nine months by a self-proclaimed prophet and his wife.
Smart told in surprising detail about her kidnapping at the age of 14 from her bedroom in her parents’ Salt Lake City home, how she felt every step of the way, and her resolve to survive. She didn’t dwell on the nine months as their captive, but instead skipped ahead to her rescue by police. As she worked her way through the story, audience members were crying in sympathy.
Smart began by saying that she wasn’t perfect, that no one’s life is perfect, and she ended on a similar note.
“We all have trials and hardships that seem overwhelming to us,” she said, before describing a situation that could be easily described as any parents’ next-to-worst nightmare. Smart, at least, got home alive and reasonably well.
Poignantly, she described thinking about the children she’d seen in the news who had been taken and killed, and she said that shortly after she was taken and as he was leading her away from her home, she asked him to kill her there.
“If you’re just going to rape and murder me, please do it here, so my parents will know what happened to me,” she recalled telling her kidnapper. “So they won’t think I ran away.”
“He said ‘I’m not going to do that yet,’” she recounted.
Smart also told of her first raping by that same man, who abused her in a tent in the mountains around Salt Lake City.
“I’ll never forget lying on the floor of that tent, feeling so worthless, filthy, and thinking ‘who would want to love me now?’” She also wondered if her parents would take her back. “I felt like I was ruined.” She also said she envied the children on the news who had been killed, because at least they were with God in heaven.
Helping steel her resolve was the memory of her mother’s love, a mother who had counseled her after a disappointing encounter with a popular girl, that only two opinions mattered in the world: God’s and her mother’s.
“She was right. She would always love me, care about me. I would always be her daughter,” Smart told the Corsicana audience.
In that moment, she made one of the two most important decisions of her life, that she would survive.
Her story ended with her rescue by police, when she first denied being a captive, and then admitted she was Elizabeth Smart, whose case was by then famous in and around Salt Lake City. In the moment of her rescue, she was handcuffed and put into the back of a police car and taken to Salt Lake City.
Smart said she didn’t know why she was handcuffed, but she said she ultimately decided it was because “they saw in me the way I see myself now — a lethal weapon.”
Being reunited with her family, Smart said she thought that was what heaven must be like — being surrounded by people you love.
That night, her mother gave her some crucial advice, Smart said.
“What this man has done to you is terrible... but the best punishment you can give him is to be happy... if you live in the past, you’re only allowing him to steal more of your life from you,” Smart’s mother told her.
At that point, Smart said she made the second-most important decision of her life, to take her mother’s advice and move forward and not dwell on what had been done to her.
“We all do have a choice,” she said.
Smart urged the audience to introduce children to RadKids, a program that helps children overcome adversity and make better decisions, as well as her own Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which seeks to prevent child abductions and supports the families of abducted children.
In introducing the speaker, Jenny Bratton, executive director of Child Advocates of Navarro County, said that Smart is “proof that we work with survivors, not victims.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com