Amanda Berry turned 17 on the day that she was abducted, Gina DeJesus just barely a teen at age 13, Michelle Knight, the oldest of the Ohio trio kidnapped and held captive for over a decade, was a mere 21.
As a parent it is hard to know what to think, let alone what to say to your children. This story has many angles, many themes. There is the tale about resilience and hope. Amanda Berry herself is quoted as saying it was the sisterhood of the three young women that kept them alive. There is the story about a neighborhood hero who did not decide to 'mind his own business' when he heard screams coming from his neighbor's home. There is also the story of other concerned neighbors who on other occasions had called the police to the home because they thought there was something just not right. There is the story of intuition, a neighbor who directed her own children to play away from the house because her gut told her there was something not right. And of course there is the story of an investigation that could have come to an end earlier if the police had worked harder to follow through on the several occasions that they got called to that house of horrors.
Like Elizabeth Smart abducted from her own bedroom at age 14 and found nine months later, and Jaycee Lee Dugard abducted at age 11 in 1991 and found in 2009, these young women are the heroes in a story about courage, hope and most of all of endurance. They remind us that the human spirit is strong and the will to live is mighty.
As a parent, this story is just another reminder that the world in which we live can be cruel and scary. We will all certainly want to hold our children just a little bit closer, hug them just a little harder. We may even want to demand that they stay home beside us where we know they will be safe. Luckily, our children tend to see the world differently. Theirs is a world of wonder and excitement, a place where bad things may abound but they only happen to other people. We could all learn a lot from their worldview.
Stories such as this one are perhaps the scariest from a parent's perspective because they are about people we could easily know; the girl down the street, the man at the hardware store.
What story will we choose to tell? What aspect will we focus on? Is this a story of triumph or treachery?
The story I choose to tell my children is the one about strength and hope, resilience and courage. I choose to tell the story about three young women who refused to give up or give in. To tell the story of their captives is not worth the time it would take to write down the words.
This story is about three young women who demonstrated bravery and faith. They remind us that where there is a will, there is hope, and with hope and a bit of tenacity even the greatest of challenges can be achieved and the greatest of odds can be overcome. Amanda Berry rapped on that window a few years ago, and she continued to rap until she was finally heard.
When asked to comment, Jaycee Lee Dugard said it best when she cautioned that this is a story about what happened to three women, not a story of who they are.
The story we each choose to tell will shape the way we see the world, and how we choose to face the challenges that define our daily lives.
What story will you choose to tell?
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Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy. D. is currently a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit in a private psychiatric hospital. She is an adjunct Professor of Psychology at Pace University and maintains a private outpatient practice. She is also the creator of www.itsatweenslife.com, a forum for family and friends.