The three-minute, 31-second video that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and their families released at midnight Tuesday is a gracious, brave, empowering testimony of thanks and progress.
It is done on their terms, in their words, in a safe place far, far away from the public and media circus that threatened to engulf them after their escape from a decade in captivity. It should be taken in that spirit by those who view it.
These women survived unimaginable horrors at the hands of alleged kidnapper, rapist and murderer Ariel Castro, who is awaiting trial in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on a 329-count indictment.
Knight, the oldest, at 32, was 21 when she was reported missing in August 2002. "I may have been to hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high," she tells us in the video. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation."
That courage -- that defiance -- sends a powerful message of hope to all survivors. It also brings a tear to the eye.
Berry, 27, was 16 when she disappeared in April 2003. "I'm getting stronger each day," she assures us. "Having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life."
It is an appeal that should be honored.
DeJesus, 23, was 14 when she vanished in April 2004. She is more reticent, shy, soft-spoken. She gives thanks for the support and the donations to the Cleveland Courage Fund that are easing the transition from hostages to heroes.
The video concludes with Knight. "I'm looking forward to my brand new life," she says.
We are, too.
-- The Plain Dealer, Cleveland