From left: Meredith Vieira, Elizabeth Smart and Matthew Gilmour
By Stephen M. Silverman
A decade after her rescue from a nine-month kidnapping ordeal that began when she was taken at knifepoint at 14 from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart is telling her tale in her book to be released next week and to Meredith Vieira in an NBC interview to air Friday.
My Story, by the now 25-year-old, recalls the painful days and nights held in captivity by Brian David Mitchell – a onetime homeless preacher – and his wife, Wanda Barzee, when the teen was chained, dressed in disguise and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. She also relives the moments where she was brought back to her family and saw justice served to her attackers.
In the Meredith Vieira special to air Friday 10 p.m. ET, and previewed earlier in the day on the NBC News website, Smart returned to the tent where she was first taken and ordered to undress by a strange woman in long linen robes.
This turned out to Barzee. As for Mitchell, he began performing some kind of marriage ceremony.
"I was begging and crying and just so scared," Smart tells Vieira. "I remember thinking, 'I know what comes after a wedding. And that cannot happen to me. That cannot happen.' "
She also recalls, "I remember him forcing me onto the ground, [and] fighting the whole way. And then when he was finished, he stood up, and I was left alone, feeling absolutely broken, absolutely shattered. I was broken beyond repair. I was going to be thrown away."
Mitchell chained her to a tree, making her his sex slave. (In 2011, Mitchell was sentenced to two life-terms in the high-security at the United States Penitentiary, Tucson. Barzee was sentenced in 2010 to two terms of up to 15 years in prison, including seven years she had already served.)
"There was a point that I stopped crying," Smart says. "It's not just because I didn't feel pain anymore, not because I didn't feel sorrow. It was just to keep going. I mean, it just was to survive, to live."
As for revisiting with Smart the scene of the initial torture, and noting Smart's controlled reaction, Vieira commented, "I don't think she wants to show emotion, particularly crying at this point, because it would just make [Mitchell]) feel that he still has some control over her. The only time she gets really agitated is when you ask her, 'You had these opportunities to escape, why didn't you?' That's when she gets extremely agitated. She's a remarkable young woman."