Amanda Berry and other Cleveland women held captive return to reality

Law enforcement officials call Amanda Berry the 'real hero' in ending the nightmare for her and two other girls …
Life is about to begin anew for Amanda Berry and two other women who disappeared from Cleveland streets more than a decade ago and who, through courage, resiliency and heroism, survived and escaped captivity this week.

Berry was a young, 17-year-old girl when she disappeared in April 2003. She was prized by her mother, who passed away long ago. Now she prizes her own daughter, a six-year-old daughter born in captivity and who knows nothing else.

How does one return to normalcy after being pulled from it for 10 years? Is there any way to really know?

It is a relieving, yet troubling, conclusion to the story of three missing women, who disappeared from Cleveland streets, scarring the very neighbourhood where they were recovered on Monday. Three brothers have been arrested, including the man who lived in the home where they were found.

"The nightmare is over. These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance," FBI Special Agent Steve Anthony told reporters on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

"Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry."

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Berry was found with two other women who had disappeared about 10 years ago.

Their disappearances were separate and had been unsolved for years. Families sought answers; police searched for clues and, as in all cold cases, did their best to keep the search alive as time passed. Tips came in but no one could find Berry, Gina DeJesus or Michelle Knight.

Until Monday, when Berry was heard screaming from inside a home, in a nondescript Cleveland neighbourhood.

Neighbour Charles Ramsey told local reporters that he heard the shouts and came to help. He helped Berry tear a hole in the locked screen door and called police.

"Help me! I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm here. I'm free now," she told a 911 operator. It was the first time the open world had heard her voice since she went missing in April 2003.

Things have changed for Berry in the decade since she disappeared. She was a child, just 17, the daughter of a loving mother. Police confirm a six-year-old child recovered with the women was Berry’s daughter. It will be the first Mother’s Day she can truly celebrate.

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The search for Berry was long, involved and rarely wavered. Her family had watched their hopes be dashed again and again over the years she was missing. It was hard for them to accept this week’s good news.

“She was my best friend,” cousin Tasheena Mitchell told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, before being corrected by supporters – she is alive. “You’re right. She is my best friend.”

The family descended on the hospital where the girls were being checked over. Included in the rush was DeJesus’ mother, Nancy. Cousin Sylvia Colon told CNN that Nancy had refused to give up hope.

"She has always said that she just could feel it, a link a mom can feel, but she always believed Gina was alive and well," she said. "She always believed that. I just want to say what a phenomenal Mother's Day gift she gets this Mother's Day."

The search for Knight was far less emphatic. She was 19 when she disappeared in 2002. Her grandmother told the Plain Dealer that the family suspected she had simply run away.

Now, thanks to Berry’s courageous escape, help from a neighbour and assistance from police, the women have been returned to their families. Scarred, scared and confused, they will now be tasked with finding peace in their freedom.

They have missed so much over the past decade, suffered so much. It will not be easy.