They are the conversations that three families have dreamed of for the past decade.
Since their remarkable escape, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have reconnected with their relatives, sharing glimpses of the years they spent forcibly confined in a house in Cleveland, Ohio.
Two of the victims – Ms. Berry and Ms. DeJesus – were welcomed by cheering crowds at their families’ homes in the city on Wednesday.
Ms. Berry arrived at her older sister’s house with her six-year-old daughter, who was born in captivity. Ms. Berry had been expected to make a public statement outside the home, which was decorated with balloons and teddy bears, but her sister spoke instead.
“At this time, our family would request privacy so my sister and niece and I can have time to recover,” Beth Serrano told journalists.
In an earlier emotional phone call, Ms. Berry told her grandmother about her little girl. “She’s six. She was born on Christmas,” Ms. Berry said in a conversation captured by WJHL-TV on Tuesday.
At one point during the call, Fern Gentry, her grandmother, said she feared that the young woman had died. “No, I’m here,” Ms. Berry said in a soft voice.
Ms. Berry, who was kidnapped 10 years ago on the eve of her 17th birthday, spoke with her father shortly after she escaped on Monday. “She said, ‘Hi Daddy, I’m alive’,” Johnny Berry told the television station. “She said, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you,’ and then we both started crying. You wouldn’t believe it. There are no words for it. I told her I never lost hope.”
Meanwhile, Ms. DeJesus gave a thumb’s-up sign to a large cheering crowd as she arrived at her childhood home later Wednesday afternoon. Ms. DeJesus wore a bright green hoodie, her head covered, and leaned on another woman as she rushed into the house, which was decorated with balloons and a “Welcome Home Gina” sign.
“There are not enough words to say or express the joy that we feel for the return of our family member, Gina, and now Amanda Berry, her daughter and Michelle Knight, who is our family also,” Sandra Ruiz, her aunt, told reporters.
Ms. Ruiz pleaded for people not to retaliate against the suspects or their family members. Ariel Castro, 52, who owns the home in which the three women were held, was charged Wednesday evening with kidnapping and rape. The other two brothers had not been charged.
Ms. DeJesus, who was just 14 when she was last seen nine years ago, spent Tuesday with her family. Rather than focusing on what happened, they tried to lift her up and said she was in “good spirits,” her sister, Mayra DeJesus, told CNN.
Family members of Ms. Knight, who is still reportedly in hospital, have also spoken out, saying that the ordeal has left her traumatized.
“I hugged her because she wanted a hug,” her brother, Freddie Knight, told CNN. “My sister is going to move on, forget the past and what happened, leave it behind, start anew.”
Mr. Knight said he and his sister had a strained relationship with their mother, who he said hadn’t even told him that his sister had been missing for more than 10 years.
Barbara Knight, their mother, told NBC on Wednesday that she hadn’t yet spoken with her daughter, but hoped to take her to Florida to live with her. Police theorized that the young woman, who has a developmental disability and was 20 when she went missing, was upset and simply decided to disappear.
“I know she’s probably angry at the world because she thought that she would never be found, but thank God that somebody did,” Ms. Knight said.