Utah March 09, 2017
The Day The Entire Country Rejoiced With Utah Is One We’ll Never Forget
As dawn broke on June 5, 2002, Utahns tuned into the morning news, and saw every parent’s nightmare: a child in Salt Lake had been kidnapped.
In the early morning hours, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped right from her bed in Salt Lake’s Federal Heights neighborhood.
Thousands of volunteers searched for her, to no avail. Parents all over Utah pulled their children closer and anguished for the Smart family.
The family posted billboards along I-15. They appeared on local and national news shows and even told their story on an episode of America’s Most Wanted. Many Utahns feared the worst, but Elizabeth’s family and supporters never gave up.
Most stories like Elizabeth’s do not have happy endings. As the months went by, Utahns went on with their lives, Elizabeth Smart was always in the back of their minds. Where was she? Who was responsible for her kidnapping? And...was she even alive?
On March 12, 2003, Utahns turned on their televisions to see the most amazing, wonderful news. Elizabeth Smart had been found, and she was alive.
Elizabeth was recovered just 18 miles from her family home. She had been missing for nine long months, while she was held captive by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee. Her life in captivity was horrific - Elizabeth told police about long months of torture that included rape, bondage and death threats.
Luckily, Elizabeth’s story goes far beyond her tragic kidnapping. Just a year after she was found, she met President George W. Bush right before he signed the PROTECT Act of 2003, which included many provisions to prevent kidnapping and assist law enforcement with investigating kidnappings.
Elizabeth grew up, went on an LDS mission, and married. Throughout her adult life, she has worked on behalf of victims of sexual abuse.
In 2011, she founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which educates children about abuse and helps support other organizations to stop human trafficking.
Elizabeth Smart is the recipient of many awards and has spoken around the world about her experience and to support the victims of abuse and the investigators who must find abusers and bring them to justice.
Elizabeth’s memoir, written with Chris Stewart, was published in 2013.
Two other books were written by Elizabeth’s father and uncle, and a made-for-television movie was made in 2003.
But this story isn’t about Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping. It’s about one of the happiest days in Utah’s history - the day that every Utahn rejoiced in her safe recovery. It’s about a strong young woman who has dedicated her life to helping others. Fourteen years after Utahns heard the wonderful news that Elizabeth Smart was found alive, parents pull their children a little bit closer and tell them about a strong, brave young woman who came home to us.
Do you remember the day that Elizabeth Smart was found?