10 Years Later, Elizabeth Smart Opens Up About Her Kidnapping

In her new book “My Story,” Smart shares details about her nine-month abduction.

Elizabeth Smart

On her first night at home, her parents suggested pulling her mattress into their room, so she could sleep by them on the floor. No, she said. No more floors for her. She wanted to sleep in her own bed.

That attitude helped ease the transition back to a normal life, as did her family's reliance on a routine. "I grew up having to clean my room, and I always had to have a chore," she says with a laugh. "My mom and dad were not afraid to have all of us outside weeding our backyard. When I got back, they told me I could have a month off from doing my chores and cleaning my room." Smart did not accept the offer. "I was so excited to be back, I would have done anything, and I did. But when the second month came around, by then I was like, 'OK, I don't want to vacuum anymore!'"

She adds that her parents never tried to make special allowances for her or say, "No, you can't do that because of what happened to you."

In November 2010, nearly eight years since she had last seen Mitchell, Smart entered a courtroom to testify against him. She didn't take her eyes off him – she wanted him to see her. As horrible as he was to look at, she recalls, he didn't make her shrink away, because she knew he would never hurt her again. So she returned his cold stare, never looking away.

"I remember when I saw him for the first time, I didn't feel anything," Smart says. "He had no claim on me or my life or my emotions. Does that mean that I would like to spend an afternoon with him or invite him to lunch? No. And do I ever want him getting out of prison? No, because I think he'd do the same thing. I think he'd come back after me. But at the same time, seeing him doesn't scare me and doesn't make me want to run and hide."

She pauses to reflect on how she reached that point. "I think everyone is stronger than we all think we are," she says. "I think the human spirit is resilient."

In 2011, Mitchell was sentenced to two life terms in the high-security unit at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz. A year earlier, Barzee was given two terms of up to 15 years in prison, including seven that she had already served.

And Smart, well, she's been busy skiing and riding horses and playing with her new dog – and serving an 18-month volunteer mission in Paris for her church. She's been busy being happy. Yes, she's seen the worst of humanity and been through hell and back. But Smart knows she's stronger than that.

She credits much of her buoyancy to her mother, Lois, and the words of wisdom she shared the morning after the rescue. "My mom said, 'What this man has done to you is evil,'" Smart recalls. "'And there aren't words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil he is. He has stolen nine months of your life that you'll never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy, because by holding onto this and using it as a crutch throughout your life, you're only allowing him more power and more control. And he doesn't deserve that. Be happy, because he doesn't deserve another second."