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Tony Rossi

Radio Host/Producer

Hostages’ Hope and Faith Lead to Survival
October 4, 2015

Considering that Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were kidnapped, held hostage, and repeatedly sexually assaulted by Cleveland school bus driver Ariel Castro for 10 years, it might seem odd that they named their memoir “Hope.” But that word perfectly describes these two young women who endured more darkness than most of us can fathom by relying on their faith in God and the light that was brought into their lives by Berry’s daughter Jocelyn, a child of her rape by Castro.

Berry and DeJesus (and a third hostage, Michelle Knight) were all over the news two years ago when they finally escaped from Castro’s house of horrors. They recently co-authored their memoir with help from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan (who were Christopher Award winners for their 2006 book “The Prison Angel: Mother Antonia’s Journey from Beverly Hills to a Life of Service in a Mexican Jail”). Jordan and Sullivan joined me on “Christopher Closeup” to discuss this horrific, yet ultimately inspiring story.

Berry and DeJesus were just 16 and 14 when Castro lured them into his home (months apart) under the guise of visiting his daughter, who they knew from school. In Berry’s case, he chained her to a pole in his cold, dark basement where he abused her every day. Yet Berry refused to let her spirit be crushed because she believed that God had a different plan for her.

Authors Jordan and Sullivan explained that Berry “found a candle with a picture of Jesus on it in the basement, and she would light it and pray. She also found a drawing of Jesus. She put it up beside her bed in the room [to which Castro moved her], and it became a source of strength and hope.”

The environment in the house changed when Berry became pregnant with Jocelyn. She saw the new life inside her as a sign of hope, and it bonded her with DeJesus and Knight, who were also able to find joy in this innocent child. Surprisingly, Jocelyn changed Castro as well. Sullivan said, “The baby made him happier, and when he was happier, everyone was happier.”

On May 6, 2013, six-year-old Jocelyn opened the door to Berry’s room and said, “Daddy’s gone.” Berry couldn’t believe it. In 10 years, he had never left the house with the bedroom doors unlocked. Berry ran downstairs and, with the help of passersby, got out and called for help. The three girls finally achieved their long-awaited freedom. The authors noted, “One of the first things Gina did when she got out, she went to church, lit a candle, and said a prayer for all the other missing girls [in the world].”

In the two years that have passed, Castro committed suicide while in jail. Berry and DeJesus, on the other hand, are full of optimism. Jordan and Sullivan said, “You can come out of difficult things either bitter and broken—or hopeful. They are happy to be young and free…They’re going to finish high school…Gina is going to go to New York, and she hopes one day she can have a little store selling clothes. Amanda had a gift for teaching. And both of them want to be advocates for other missing kids.”

In addition, the authors describe Jocelyn as “beautiful and vibrant and smart. I think Amanda said, ‘I’m not looking as though she is [Castro's] child. She is my child.’ And she is. They’re extremely close and Jocelyn is a marvelous, infectiously-happy little girl. It’s one of several miracles of this story.”

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, PERSEVERING THROUGH PAIN AND STRUGGLE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org