Every single light post was plastered with her face. You couldn’t turn the television or radio on without hearing her name. She was everywhere, and I remember feeling terrified and scared to be living in such a large world where this type of tragedy is not only possible, but a common occurrence. Elizabeth Smart was taken from her Salt Lake City home as a young fourteen year old. This story of a horrendous kidnapping made national news, continued to flow through all outlets of communication throughout the nine months she was held captive, and continued to overtake wavelengths for years after she was safely returned to her family.
I was a mere six-and-a-half years old at the time of this national crisis. I remember feeling a constant fear for my security, always convinced that there was someone out there lurking, hiding behind doors or simply behind my shoulder, waiting to take me away in the night, just as they had so easily done with Elizabeth. School lessons were changed to focus on teaching the little ones the age-old lesson of “stranger danger.” Parents all over were hurriedly switching out their locks for better, more efficient ones. More and more houses were being installed with new windows and top of the line security systems. You could taste the fear; it was everywhere. The bone-chilling sound of her name being yelled and chanted on every news channel became a daily occurrence, sometimes even hourly, with empty updates and bottomless hopes for her return.
Nine long months later, Elizabeth Smart was spotted and safely returned to her family. A sense of relief enveloped the nation, but the overall lurking reminder that this terrible thing happens and will continue to happen was stuffed away in the back of our minds. I pray for six-year-old me, for her sanity as well as her safety.
We know that we live in a world where abduction and human trafficking is prevalent. We know that every single day, thousands of men, women, and children are forced into sexual situations, grueling labor, and abuse. This is what human trafficking is, and we are the ones who can stop it.