Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping in June 2002 devastated her close-knit family. In their new book, Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope (due from Doubleday on Oct. 28), Ed and Lois Smart relive the pain of her abduction, the frantic search, Ed's nervous breakdown – and their daughter's joyous homecoming. The following is an excerpt of their personal account of the ordeal.
JUNE 5, 2002: 3:58 a.m. ED: We awoke to the sound of a voice filled with fright – that of our 9-year-old daughter, Mary Katherine.
"She's gone. Elizabeth is gone."
Mary Katherine stood by Lois's side of the bed, her head covered by her baby blanket. At first we were certain it had just been a bad dream. (But) she went on, "A man came and took her. He had a gun." (We) ran from the room and down the stairs, flicking on every light switch. Lois's eyes fell on the cut screen in the kitchen window, and she screamed in utter disbelief and shock. That's when we both realized that Mary Katherine's words had quickly become our worst nightmare. Our daughter Elizabeth was gone.
JUNE 2002: THE FIRST DAYS ED: I remember feeling as if the police didn't have control over the situation. In the early hours of the first day, I was bothered they weren't out there looking for my daughter. The house was not immediately sealed as a crime scene, which was confusing and troubling. Looking back, this turned out to be a huge oversight on the part of the police.
When the investigators started looking at our family, the obvious thought was that I might be involved. The police were pushing me to the point of breaking – which was their goal. If they could break me, surely I'd confess. This was definitely one of the lowest points of my life.
I had been crying uncontrollably for three days – since the morning Elizabeth was taken. That night two FBI agents had to help me up the stairs to my bedroom. My mind was overwhelmed by the situation our family was facing. I was checked into the hospital, unable to stop myself from crying. By morning I had suffered what my doctors would later tell me was a mild nervous breakdown. They sedated me when I checked in, but I kept right on crying. I just couldn't stop.
LOIS: A few weeks after Elizabeth was kidnapped, I was having a particularly bad Sunday. I got all of the children ready for church, but I simply couldn't muster the strength to pull myself together. I was lying on my bed, looking up at the ceiling, feeling lost and distraught. I had been crying and crying. I kept praying for an answer to why this could be happening. And then I heard a voice in my head, clear as anything I have ever heard, say the words "Be of good cheer." It was enough to get me out of bed that morning. I dressed and went to church.