The #1 New York Times Bestseller
A bestselling book that is inspiring the nation: “We have written here about terrible things that we never wanted to think about again . . . Now we want the world to know: we survived, we are free, we love life.”
Two women kidnapped by infamous Cleveland school-bus driver Ariel Castro share the stories of their abductions, captivity, and dramatic escape
On May 6, 2013, Amanda Berry made headlines around the world when she fled a Cleveland home and called 911, saying: “Help me, I’m Amanda Berry. . . . I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for ten years.”
A horrifying story rapidly unfolded. Ariel Castro, a local school bus driver, had separately lured Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight to his home, where he kept them chained. In the decade that followed, the three were raped, psychologically abused, and threatened with death. Berry had a daughter—Jocelyn—by their captor.
Drawing upon their recollections and the diary kept by Amanda Berry, Berry and Gina DeJesus describe a tale of unimaginable torment, and Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan interweave the events within Castro’s house with original reporting on efforts to find the missing girls. The full story behind the headlines—including details never previously released on Castro’s life and motivations—Hope is a harrowing yet inspiring chronicle of two women whose courage, ingenuity, and resourcefulness ultimately delivered them back to their lives and families.
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Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan are journalists for The Washington Post who write about national and foreign news. They are longtime foreign correspondents who have been based in Tokyo, Mexico City and London. Winners of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, they are also the authors of The Prison Angel: Mother Antonia's Journey from Beverly Hills to a Life of Service in a Mexican Jail. They live in Washington, D.C., with their two children.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A Note to Readers
We have written here about terrible things that we never wanted to think about again. But our story is not just about rape and chains, lies and misery. That was Ariel Castro’s world. Our story is about overcoming all that.
We want people to know the truth, the real story of our decade as Castro’s prisoners inside 2207 Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.
For years we could see on TV that our families were looking for and praying for us. They never gave up, and that gave us strength. We videotaped news coverage of them holding vigils and replayed those tapes on our most desperate days. When it was very hard to believe we would ever be free again, and no longer enslaved by a cruel man, just writing the word “hope” over and over helped keep us going.
Now we want the world to know: We survived, we are free, we love life. We were stronger than Ariel Castro.
While we lived within feet of each other for years inside a very small house, our experiences were very different. Castro was a master manipulator who lied to each of us about the others so we wouldn’t trust one another and band together against him.
To tell our distinct stories, parts of this book are in Amanda’s voice and parts are in Gina’s, and we have clearly marked each.
Amanda kept a diary of more than 1,200 pages, and its entries are a key source for this book. They were written on McDonald’s napkins and takeout bags, on loose-leaf paper, in a kid’s dime-store journal, and even on the inside of empty cardboard boxes of Little Debbie cakes. Ariel Castro also shot many hours of home video over the years, and together with Amanda’s notes they form a vivid record of life inside that house, which has enabled us to write precisely about what was happening on specific dates and times.
Amanda was only seventeen when she started writing down her thoughts, and especially in the early years they are written in a teenager’s shorthand. A week after her abduction, for example, she wrote: “I asked him when he’s takin’ me home—he said MAYBE the last wk of June. I just don’t want no one 2 4-get about me. Ima go 4 now. PRAY 4 me!” To make it easier on readers, we have expanded that shorthand, and use italics when we quote Amanda’s diary exactly as written.
Other parts of this book involve matters that were taking place outside the house that we could not possibly have known about. To explain those, we have relied on Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, the journalists who helped us write this book. Their reporting has enabled us to learn about law enforcement’s search for us, the school bus driver who stole a decade of our lives, his violent relationship with his common-law wife, and his long history of domestic violence.
Mary, who grew up on the west side of Cleveland, and Kevin reviewed thousands of pages of police reports and court transcripts, watched hours of Castro’s videotaped interviews with police, visited Castro’s hometown in rural Puerto Rico, and interviewed Castro’s family members and scores of other people to help investigate how our kidnappings happened and went unsolved for so long.
Michelle Knight was also a captive in Castro’s house and we invited her to join us in writing this book, but she decided to tell her story by herself. She appears throughout our account when she had significant interactions with us. We wish her only the best as we all try to recover and rebuild our lives.
We are inspired every day by Jocelyn Berry, who was born on a Christmas morning in the house on Seymour Avenue. She made a dark place brighter, and in many ways helped save us.
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus
February 10, 2015
My phone chimes. A text message.
Who could that be? It’s after midnight, and I’m in bed. Jocelyn is asleep next to me, just like every night since she was born six years ago. That’s about the only thing that hasn’t changed in the four months since I kicked my way out of that hell house.
I’m staring at the message from my aunt Susie: Did you hear that he killed himself?
I freeze. A minute passes, then another. Can this be real?
I start to feel sick. The phone rings, and it’s my aunt Theresa: “Did you hear? It’s breaking news on Channel 19 that Ariel Castro killed himself.”
I slip out of bed so Jocelyn doesn’t wake up, and I run downstairs and turn on the TV.
His mug shot takes up the entire screen.
“Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro is dead. He apparently hanged himself in his cell tonight. He had served a little over a month of his sentence: life in prison plus a thousand years.”
My stomach knots up. It’s hard to breathe.
How dare he do this? How dare he?
He kidnapped me, chained me like a dog in his house, and raped me over and over. Because of him, my mother died without knowing if I was dead or alive. She was only forty-three, and I can never forgive him for breaking her heart.
But he was Jocelyn’s father. She loves him, and he loved her. He never hurt her. He took her to the library, to the mall, to McDonald’s. He even took her to church. I hid the reality of 2207 Seymour Avenue from her as best I could, hoping that she would think her home was no different from anybody else’s.
Ariel Castro deserved to be in jail, forever. But now that he’s suddenly dead, I don’t know what to feel, and that confusion is running in rivers down my cheeks.
I’m sitting on the floor in my living room, talking to my mom and my brother, Ricky. Since I got out of Ariel Castro’s prison four months ago, I am with my family night and day. I hate to be by myself. I’m still afraid.
I was walking home from the seventh grade in April 2004 when he tricked me into his car. I turned fifteen locked inside Seymour Avenue, and then sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, and twenty-three. He made me want to kill myself, and I felt so sad and alone that for months at a time I barely got out of bed.
A big “Breaking News” bulletin comes across the TV screen: ARIEL CASTRO IS DEAD.
Everyone in the living room stops talking.
I don’t feel anything, but only stare at the TV, numb.
I just had a dream a couple of nights ago that two prisoners got into his cell and killed him, and that his body was found naked in a pool of water.
Now he’s really dead.
Or at least the prison officials being interviewed on TV say he is. I’m not sure I believe it. Maybe they are claiming he’s dead so people will stop talking about him. Our story has been nonstop bad news for Cleveland. Maybe they think pretending he’s dead will quiet things down.
Or maybe he’s behind this somehow. He’s so sneaky and clever, anything’s possible with him. I learned that the hard way, and I don’t trust anything about him. But on TV they keep reporting that he’s dead, so maybe he really is gone.
I call Michelle, and we both agree that it would have been better for him to suffer in prison for the rest of his life.
I text Amanda, not wanting a call to wake up Jocelyn, and she calls me right back.
“I didn’t want him to die this way—nobody should. I wanted him to be in prison like we were,” I tell her. “I wanted him to be locked up and left with his thoughts, because his thoughts would eat him alive.”
I can tell Amanda is upset, and I know that dealing with this is going to be more complicated for her.
When I hang up, I start thinking that it might actually be good that he’s gone. Now he can’t hurt anybody else.
I start crying—not because he’s dead, but because he hurt me so badly for so long.
The phone keeps ringing. I know it’s news reporters, so I don’t pick up. What could I say? I don’t know what I think or feel.
I start remembering all the times he talked to me about his fear of prison, how he said he would kill himself before going to jail. He said he would rather die in a gunfight with police than let them put him behind bars. But I never thought he would have the guts to hang himself.
And so soon. After holding us prisoners for years, he couldn’t stand being locked up for even a few months? And his mom was allowed to visit.
My sister, Beth, is sleeping upstairs. She’s not feeling well, and I don’t want to wake her up, so I sit alone.
My aunt Theresa calls again.
“Think of everything he did to you. It’s good that he’s gone.”
Maybe she’s right.
But all I can really think of is that Jocelyn never got to say good-bye to her daddy. After we escaped from Seymour Avenue in May and drove away in an ambulance, we never saw him again. Now it’s September and he’s dead.
When Jocelyn turned eighteen she would have been able to visit him in prison and ask him all the questions I know she will have. It’s cruel that he took away her chance to face him one day.
I wonder which was harder for him: being behind bars, or knowing that his grown kids and the whole world learned of his sick double life. What others thought of him mattered a lot to him. He craved respect. He thought he deserved it as a self-taught musician and because he had grown up in poverty but now owned his own house and drove nice cars.
After Jocelyn was born, he began to pretend we were a normal family, and I think he actually convinced himself we were. He locked me in his house but took Jocelyn out to help him pick flowers for me. For a decade he was my whole life and often the only person I had to talk to.
Now he’s dead.
Right now that feels like more pain, more sadness, and more loss.
April 21, 2003: Maroon Van
I wake up at noon on the day after Easter. I was up late again listening to Eminem. His song “Superman” usually cheers me up: “They call me Superman, I’m here to rescue you.” I have his posters all over my bedroom—on the walls, my mirror, the closet door. But today even Em can’t help me feel better.
My mom pushes my door open and sticks her head in. I’m still in bed, upset.
“Mandy, I’m off to work. See you tonight. Love you!”
“Love you, too. See you later.”
We live in the upstairs part of a duplex at West 111th Street and Belmont Avenue, near Cleveland’s Westown Square Shopping Center. It’s not a bad place, except for the noise from all the cars and trucks whizzing by on I-90, the highway just beside the house. My older sister, Beth Serrano, lives downstairs with her husband, Teddy, and their two little girls, Mariyah, age four, and Marissa, age three.
Teddy is the reason I’m so miserable. He and my sister are having a fight. She’s furious. Teddy is the manager of the Burger King where I work and I don’t want to see him today because he’s made my sister so upset.
Outside my window I hear Beth drive off with my mom in her old Chevy Lumina. They work together at a tool and die factory over on Brookpark Road assembling metal parts: a thirty-nine-year-old mom and her twenty-three-year-old daughter standing side by side, putting little metal pieces together like a puzzle. No one ever told them what the part they make is for, but when they fill a box with a hundred of them, they start over on a new box.
A lot of parents in my neighborhood do hourly work like my mom, and then their kids drop out of school and join them in the same jobs, getting by but not going far. My dad moved back to Tennessee with another woman, so my mom works minimum-wage jobs and I try to pitch in and pay for things like my schoolbooks.
I blast more Em in my room. My stereo speakers are on my dresser, next to my porcelain angels and Nativity set. I keep the angels and baby Jesus out all year, not just at Christmas, because they make me happy.
I jump in the shower and stay under the hot water for an extra-long time, wondering if I should quit my job because of this mess with Teddy. I don’t want to. It’s the first job I’ve ever had and I’ve met some nice friends there. I started nearly a year ago when I turned sixteen, and I’ve already gotten a raise to six dollars an hour, almost a dollar more than when I started. Lots of people work there a long time and never get raises, so I guess they like me. It’s nice, too, to hear customers tell me I have a pretty smile.
I need money because one day I’m going to go to college. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to study—maybe clothing design. I love clothes and obsess over every detail, right down to my shoelaces, which I make sure always match my shirt.
If I did quit today, I wouldn’t miss this Burger King uniform: burgundy shirt, black jeans, and black sneakers. I drew the line at those nasty polyester pants. The shirt was bad enough, but they weren’t going to get me to wear those pants, too.
I pull my work shirt out of a drawer and leave two identical ones folded there. I like everything ironed and orderly. I have a system for hanging up my clothes: light pink shirts together, close to, but not mixed with, darker pinks. All my whites are together. Pressed jeans are organized from light blue to darker. I arrange my shoes on the floor by heel height, starting with flats and sneakers and moving up to wedges and high heels.
Tomorrow is my seventeenth birthday, and a few friends are coming over to celebrate with me, so I should be excited. I check my money hidden in a glittery pink box in the back of my bra drawer. I have a hundred dollars tucked away, and to celebrate I’m going to splurge on a new outfit and get my nails done.
Why not call in sick? It might be nice just to stay home and read my magazines. I have subscriptions to Entertainment Weekly, People, and Rolling Stone, and keep old copies stacked neatly in my room.
But I don’t want to work on my birthday, so I guess I should just go. It’s only the four-to-eight shift. I can do this.
I’d better hurry; it’s ten minutes to four.
I pick up my black Burger King baseball cap and carry it, because there’s no way I’m wearing that on the street. I pull on my black sweater and head out the front door into a gray April afternoon.
· · ·
Work is a ten-minute walk. After I pass a couple of houses and turn right onto West 110th Street, I can see the traffic light ahead at the corner of Lorain, where the Burger King is.
I cross the long bridge over I-90 and watch the cars whizzing by, carrying people going places. Someday I’m heading somewhere better. I am not going to live like my mom, always worried about how to pay the bills. She has been a clerk at Kmart, a BP gas station, the deli counter at the Finast grocery store, and even the Burger King where I work now. Because she dropped out of middle school, she hasn’t been able to get anything better. After I graduate from college I am going to earn enough money to buy my own house. My mom can live with me, and then maybe I can make her life a little easier.
I pass Westown Square, where we buy just about everything: food at the Tops grocery store, movies at the Blockbuster, clothes at Fashion Bug. Beth has found cute outfits for the girls at the thrift shop, Value World.
Right at four I arrive at work. God, that smell. French fries and burgers. Gre...
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