CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Elizabeth Smart: 20 years later

Mar 7, 2023, 9:39 AM | Updated: 1:42 pm

Elizabeth Smart is asking officials to reconsider releasing Wanda Barzee, one of her kidnappers....

FILE PHOTO -- Elizabeth Smart after speaking from the steps of the Utah Capitol building about Wanda Barzee (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

(Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — You may remember where you were twenty years ago this week when Elizabeth Smart was found safe, walking the streets of Sandy, Utah. She had vanished nine months earlier, taken from her home during the night at knife-point.

Smart spoke with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic about her life since those dark days.

Finding Elizabeth

Nancy Montoya placed the first 911 call on March 12, 2003 after spotting Smart. She was one of the two people that saw Smart walking on State Street near the South Towne Mall.

“The women have got something over their head. They look like they’re definitely homeless,” said Montoya said in the call. 

In the hours to come, the whole world found out.

On March 12, 2003, Smart was found walking in Sandy, Utah. She was with her abductors, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. The pair were later convicted and imprisoned. 

“I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am,” said Elizabeth’s father, Ed Smart, after she was found. “What an absolute miracle.” Ed Smart is now a powerful advocate for missing persons and victims of sexual assault.

The joy from the Smart family, Utahns, and others around the world echoed for months.

Now, 20 years later, Smart is a parent herself. And like her father, she also advocates for missing persons and victims of sexual assault.

“It’s been a whirlwind”

It may be difficult to encapsulate what the last 20 years have been like during a short radio interview. So when she was asked that question, Elizabeth Smart paused momentarily and then began.

“It’s certainly been a whirlwind. A lifetime separate, yet the same,” Smart told KSL. “It’s something I never dreamed I’d be able to say, something I couldn’t even imagine, the day after I was rescued. I couldn’t imagine (that) one day in the future being able to look back and say ‘oh, yes, that was 20 years ago.’

“And now I’m married and I have three kids, and I’m able to devote so much of my time and energy to this cause that I feel so passionate about.”

The cause is empowering those who have been sexually assaulted through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

Why Smart didn’t leave it all behind

Elizabeth Smart told KSL that she wouldn’t be human if she hadn’t considered leaving the memory of her kidnapping ordeal behind and moving into life as a completely private citizen.

“There were times when I thought ‘this is not the life I imagined,’ or ‘this is hard.’

But the dust settles. And I remember. I remember what it was like. I remember being raped and I remember being scared. And I look at where I am, at that moment, and I’m safe … I have a wonderful life and a wonderful husband. And I want that for every survivor.”

 

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Elizabeth Smart: 20 years later