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Elizabeth Smart gained national fame in 2003 when she was rescued after being kidnapped and held captive for nine months.
Ed Smart - Today (Aftermath) (1:00)
Ed Smart recounts what was going through his mind immediately following his daughter Elizabeth’s abduction.
Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, talks about becoming an activist and becoming involved in his community.
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I couldn't do anything. I was just shocked, petrified. I didn't know what to do, knowing someone had come into my bedroom and taken my sister." After several months, it suddenly occurred to Mary Katherine that the kidnapper resembled a man who had once worked on their home as a handyman and who had called himself Immanuel. Police discovered that Immanuel was a man named Brian David Mitchell, and in February 2003 America's Most Wanted aired his photograph. Finally, on March 12, 2003,
a passerby recognized Mitchell walking with Smart—who was veiled and wearing a wig and sunglasses. Authorities arrested Mitchell and his wife and returned Smart to her family that evening.
Remarkably, Smart managed to return to a relatively normal life shortly after rejoining her family. Only weeks after her return, she hiked with her family to the camp where Mitchell had taken her nine months before. "I felt great. I felt triumphant," she said. "It's a good hike anyways." Smart added, "I don't think it's worth spending time in the past. It's not something I think about. If I feel like I want to [retell my story to someone], I will. But I don't have to. I don't talk about it much, I really don't care to." After five months, she returned to school and resumed playing the harp and riding horses.
Due to questions about his mental fitness to stand trial, the prosecution against Brian Mitchell stretched on for years. Finally, on December 10, 2010, more than eight years after the kidnapping, a jury in a federal courtroom in Salt Lake City found Mitchell guilty of kidnapping and transporting a child across state lines for sexual purposes. He has not yet been sentenced but is likely to receive lifetime imprisonment.
In 2008, Elizabeth Smart enrolled at Brigham Young University to study music performance. She took time off in 2009 to take her Mormon missionary trip to France, and in the summers she works as a bank clerk. She is, by all accounts, an ordinary college student. She also speaks out as an activist on behalf of kidnapping survivors and child victims of violence and sexual abuse. She has told her inspirational story in interviews with Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey, and helped to author the United States Department of Justice's 2008 handbook for kidnapping survivors, You Are Not Alone.
Smart says that her kidnapping helped her understand the depth of her love for her family and friends and learn to take joy in the gift of life. "I only have one life, and I'm not going to miss out on it," she said. "When I'm through, I want to be able to say, 'Wow, I lived a great life.'"
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