On the fourth anniversary of their amazing rescue, Michelle Knight, one of the Seymour Avenue survivors, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the community to remember the past while looking to the future.
Knight, now known as Lily Lee, is using this symbolic day to inspire and motivate.
Lee joined about two dozen people at the site where she, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry were held for a decade in a house of horrors.
With balloons in one hand and Lily flowers in the other, Lee walked up to the rally held in her honor as the crowd chanted:
“We are the Seymour Avenue survivors, I am Michelle Knight."
In front of the vacant lot where the home she was held captive once stood, a small, but mighty rain-soaked crowd paused to remember the abduction and abuse.
"Every day a person is being abused," said Lee.
The survivors of Seymour Avenue (left to right):
- Amanda Berry was just a day shy of 17 when she was abducted on April 21, 2003, after leaving her job at Burger King.
- Gina DeJesus was 14 when she was kidnapped on April 2, 2004, after leaving school.
- Michelle Knight was 21 when she was abducted by Castro on August 23, 2002, after leaving her cousin's house.
They also took time to remember the captivity and escape of the Seymour survivors.
"We didn't find them quickly, and too often women disappear, children disappear, and we need to make sure the resources are there to find them," said Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood.
More than a dozen speakers addressed the crowd, many of them asking for changes at the local, state and national level to keep history from repeating itself.
"We need public policy makers to do more for women, do more for children," said Kathy Wray Coleman, rally organizer.
A reoccurring message, speaker after speaker, was a demand to increase funding to address violence against women and children, human trafficking and missing persons.
"What happened four years ago, with these three young women, it hurt our hearts then and we vowed to not let that happen again and it's still going on," said Judi Holowatyj, rally speaker.
Lily Lee has a message for all those facing the same fate she did.
"I want them to know that they are stronger than what they think they are and they can overcome a lot of things with hope," said Lee.
In addition to their pleas for help at the site where it all began, there was a message of hope.
Hope that the ordeal, and what we have learned from it, will help prevent something so horrific from happening again.
"If you see somebody abusing somebody please come forward, please step up. Don't turn the other cheek - you might be saving a life, honey. God bless," said Lee.
At the end of the rally, Lee let go of those balloons she brought. As she sent them toward the sky she said: "For the missing."
Lee told the crowd she was thankful they were standing up for those who right now are unable to themselves.