Michelle Knight, one of three women who were held captive in Ariel Castro’s house for a decade before their escape in May, wants to give a voice to those who have been abducted and hope to mothers who have lost their children. She stood outside of Castro’s former house Wednesday as it was demolished.
Ariel Castro has been sentenced to life in prison, plus 1,000 years for kidnapping, raping, and abusing three women for over a decade. Castro gave his property over to be demolished as a part of his plea deal to avoid being given the death penalty. Demolition began early Wednesday morning, with the hopes of having the house removed the same day. Two of his children visited the house to collect personal items earlier in the week, and Amanda Berry also visited to retrieve pictures that her daughter had drawn. Members of the DeJesus family were present at the demolition, and Gina’s aunt was the first to damage the home using a hydraulic excavator.
Family members say the women have begun to heal, and two read statements for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus at Castro’s trial. Michelle Knight was the only one who attended the trial – telling her captor that although she can forgive him for what he did, she will never forget. She has made more public appearances than the other two victims, and has a remarkable spirit of compassion and hope for those who are in captivity.
Knight appeared on Wednesday morning to witness the demolition of the place she described as “hell” and handed out yellow balloons to spectators. She said that the balloons represented the millions of children who have been abducted and were never found, and the ones who have passed away without ever being heard. She wore a rosary, and prayed before speaking.
“Dear Lord, give the missing people strength and power to know that they are loved. We hear their cries. They are never forgotten in my heart. They are caterpillars waiting to turn into a butterfly. They are never forgotten – they are loved.”
Knight’s message was especially for family members of abducted children: “I want the people out there to know, including the mothers, that they can have strength, they can have hope, and their child will come back. They will – just have the love in God, and you’ll see – they’ll come back,” she said, holding up the cross around her neck.
Residents of the neighborhood will deliberate on what to do with Castro’s former plot, as well as the two lots to the left of it which are also being demolished. Knight hopes that the vacant lot on Seymour Avenue where her prison once stood will be made into a garden. She said she wants to become a motivational speaker to let others know that “they’re heard, that they are loved, and there is hope for everyone.”
A crew demolishes the home of Ariel Castro on August 7, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio (Getty Images/AFP, Angelo Merendino)