Heater, Mother of Lance

A Few Words About Elizabeth Smart

Last June while Jon and I were still living in Los Angeles we took a long weekend trip to Utah to see his twin nephews graduate from high school. We arrived during the late morning of Thursday, June 6, less than 24 hours after Elizabeth Smart had been abducted at gunpoint from her house.

Throughout the weekend we saw a countless number of handmade flyers and posters plastered all over the doors and walls of restaurants and malls, lightposts and mailboxes. You could hardly go a mile in the entire Salt Lake City area without seeing her face.

While I know that not every child who is kidnapped receives the same attention or media concentration as Elizabeth did (she comes from a very wealthy family who lives in a prestigious part of Salt Lake City near the Univeristy of Utah), it was touching to see a huge community come together in the face of a single family’s horrifying tragedy.

Since Jon and I have moved back to Salt Lake we’ve noticed a huge billboard along I-15, the freeway that gives life to the Salt Lake Valley, that has been dedicated to Elizabeth Smart and the hope for her return. It’s been there for at least three months, maybe longer. Perhaps the billboard has been there since the day she was kidnapped, and if so it only iliustrates the unbelievable belief these people have in miracles.

I was sure there would be an unhappy ending to the Elizabeth Smart story before we left Salt Lake City to return to LA last June. The odds were totally against her in this case. And seeing her face on that billboard was seriously hard at times. It was like, I can’t believe these people still think there’s hope. Who are they kidding?

And so today when the local news preempted prime time television to give us every detail of her safe return, I felt an almost overwhelming sense of shock, utter stultifying shock. I could not believe what I was seeing, especially since she was discovered 10 blocks from where my husband works, 10 blocks from my mother’s house.

And then I couldn’t believe that the step-daughter of the man who allegedly kidnapped Elizabeth LIVES NEXT DOOR TO MY MOTHER, that I have waved hello to this woman several times during the last few months as I’ve walked my dog around the block. It’s just too freaky.

And tonight as I write this I feel very happy to have my husband safe next to me, right there reading the 10th anniversary edition of Wired Magazine. I’m happy that my grumpy dog is asleep at my feet and that his feet are twitching as he dreams about playing with the Australian Shepherd next door. God, I’m happy to have my health (most of my health, at least), and to have a functioning relationship with my family even though we don’t agree on anything.

I can’t imagine losing a family member, thinking that a loved one is dead, only to have them return, alive.

It’s just so fucking wonderful.

  • Your Correction Officer

    2003/03/12 at 8:48 pm

    Well said.

  • Turner

    2003/03/12 at 8:49 pm

    Nicely done.

  • Chad's Favorite Bridesmaid

    2003/03/12 at 9:06 pm


  • Marco

    2003/03/12 at 9:11 pm

    I think we need a few more stories like this.

    The media went crazy earlier this a.m. thinking that M. bin Laden had been captured. And Elvis Costello just hosted Letterman – closed the show with “Peace, Love and Understanding”…

  • Slocore

    2003/03/12 at 9:16 pm

    The Salt Lake police dropped the ball if you ask me. But hey, she’s back, so that’s good. Long live Elizabeth Smart.

  • Mal

    2003/03/12 at 9:19 pm

    Amen, in that totally non-religious-yet-miracle-affirming way.

  • Summer

    2003/03/12 at 9:39 pm

    It’s truly a miracle. God bless that child and her family. There are no words…

  • Josh

    2003/03/12 at 9:50 pm

    You realize the feeling of the cummunity when your CEO announces that everyone is welcome to watch the news in the board room.

    I think I will be happier if I don’t ever learn the details and I can just be glad she is back with her family.

  • Naaman

    2003/03/12 at 10:22 pm

    As I type this, there’s a TV news report talking about all the other missing persons cases getting all kinds of hope and inspiration. Elizabeth’s story is truly amazing and if you can’t see it that way, you’re dead inside.

  • Broch

    2003/03/12 at 11:24 pm

    If anything, the amazing thing that this event brings out is the best that is in all of us, and a strong sense of what is truly important in life.

  • Dawn

    2003/03/13 at 1:10 am

    Why do I have the overwhelming sense that we haven’t heard the whole story yet? There just has to be more to it, I think…

  • Terry

    2003/03/13 at 2:16 am

    And the Bush administration breathes a collective sigh of relief for they will have more than twenty-four hours of media coverage not dedicated to them.

  • heather

    2003/03/13 at 3:24 am

    As my boyfriend says, “Isn’t it hard enough to be 15?” This girl is going to be in therapy for many years, but it’s bloody amazing she’s alive.

  • Glovia

    2003/03/13 at 5:09 am

    Last night I crept into my kids’ rooms while they were asleep and hugged them and cried so hard because I’m so happy they are safe. Then I checked to make sure all the doors were locked and the alarm was set. I can’t even imagine the agony the Smarts have been through. Miracle. Thanks for noticing.

  • da

    2003/03/13 at 5:13 am

    well said. i also never believed we would see this poor girl again, i don’t think you need to be religious to believe in miracles, they happen every day, whether it makes the front page or not. (even with a topic as uplifting as this, some people still have to bash our president, amazing.)

  • Alex

    2003/03/13 at 5:16 am

    I was amazed she was finally found. This gives a tiny little teeny weeny glimmer of hope that fate isn’t as messed up as it would like us to believe.

  • Terry

    2003/03/13 at 5:20 am

    That was bashing?

  • Donna

    2003/03/13 at 5:33 am

    Well said.

  • da

    2003/03/13 at 5:33 am

    ok, maybe bashing was a little strong, but it just seemed so out of context considering the topic. guess i’m just a bit emotional over this as i have kids myself and i can’t imagine the rollercoaster the smarts have been on over the last 9 months.

  • sheila

    2003/03/13 at 5:54 am

    That they found her brings back my *hope*. I will be hopeful for other things now (at least for a few more days).

  • erica

    2003/03/13 at 6:25 am

    i seriously got shivers and tears in my eyes this morning just looking at the still shot of her leaving the police station. just when you think all hope is lost…there truly are good things happening somewhere in this world!

  • Terry

    2003/03/13 at 6:26 am

    I was making more a statement about the media and their sick fascination with the seedy details of her abduction although I do enjoy bashing the president from time to time.

  • Cindi

    2003/03/13 at 6:28 am

    With me being in Guatmala and not at home in SLC, and after hearing about Elizabeth…I read all the news and then I knew I could count on you to write something brilliant about this. I am in amazement and the chills haven`t stopped! I live up by the U of U (not in the prestigious area…more like the `studenty`area) and was there all last summer during this event. People came door to door with flyers, people from all over the country volunteered time to find this girl and like you…I thought, no way in hell will they find her…alive! Miracles happen!

  • Mel

    2003/03/13 at 6:28 am

    That’s some Mormon God you’ve got there dooce.

  • Paul

    2003/03/13 at 6:34 am

    So your husband works for your mother?

  • Elvis Pepper

    2003/03/13 at 6:39 am

    paul, what she said was that her husband works at her mother’s house. your extrapolating.

  • dooce

    2003/03/13 at 6:39 am

    funny, paul. Elizabeth Smart was discovered basically halfway from my mother’s house to my husband’s place of work.

    strange and wonderful thing, I couldn’t sleep last night for all the right reasons. not because I was worried about war or about whether or not I’d ever get out of my mother’s basement or any of the other nagging reasons I haven’t been able to sleep for the last three months, but because I was so goddamn happy she was found. Hope is such a miraculous thing.

  • Nonproductive

    2003/03/13 at 6:56 am

    I’m very happy they found her. Sadly though, this is something that will effect the rest of her life as well as her family’s. At this point we can only hope that he abducted her to have a “friend” and not anything worse.

  • certified

    2003/03/13 at 7:02 am

    It is unreal. My jaw dropped when I heard she was alive. When the guy told me they found her, my immediate reaction was sadness, because I was sure she was dead.

  • The Fanboy Formerly Known As Beerzie

    2003/03/13 at 7:09 am

    In a time in which there only seems to be shitty news, this was a ray of warmth. Here’s to hoping all stories with a potentially disasterous ending turn out well.

  • Mrs. Kennedy

    2003/03/13 at 7:16 am

    Um, beyond the unimaginable relief that the Smart family must feel right now, that Cave Cave link is the shit.

  • scot-on-the-rocks

    2003/03/13 at 7:25 am

    One wonders what important work Elizabeth has ahead in this life…surely the angels have been encircling her and family throughout.

  • Jenny

    2003/03/13 at 7:34 am

    I’m with you, Heather, with the stulifying shock factor. I was amazed. The news broke in and my heart truly jumped. Having lived downtown just a mile or so from the Smarts home… this whole thing has been very much in my face. I, too, have driven by the billboards with her face on them. My favorite Italian Cafe still has had “Pray For Elizabeth” on their marquee, and it just makes me sad. Because you can’t really take those signs and things down, but who really thought that we’d ever find her in one piece?? Truly truly amazing. Let me tell you, it was not easy driving home thru downtown yesterday. Talk about media overload.

  • allisonic

    2003/03/13 at 7:49 am

    Miracles do happen.
    My skepticism is drinking a margarita on a beach somewhere.

  • April

    2003/03/13 at 7:52 am

    The Smart family was extremely and incredibly fortunate. Their situation is the exception to the rule and will always be what other families with missing children look to for hope.

    Actually makes me take Mel’s comment halfway seriously.

  • Your Correction Officer

    2003/03/13 at 8:15 am

    I’m glad she’s back, but it still seems like there’s something else going on here. I read that no criminal charges have been laid on anyone and that at one point a while ago she was with her supposed abductor and she was wearing a disguise and they were questioned by a police officer. Why didn’t she speak up?

  • Nunya

    2003/03/13 at 8:32 am

    So why does your husband work at your mother’s house?

  • reese

    2003/03/13 at 8:53 am

    that’s the kind of news the world needed…or at least the US. I didn’t think they’d find her, either, or that they’d find her dead. It really is an amazing story, and your link in all of it is amazing, too.

  • poop on a stick

    2003/03/13 at 9:05 am

    are we feeling a little bit guilty..
    feeling responsible for her not being found in 9 months???

  • Lisa

    2003/03/13 at 9:12 am

    Here in Massachusettes we have a teenage girl that was abducted from her summer job at the beach.
    (Molly Bish) Finding Elizabeth is such a miracle. It gives familys with missing children hope, and it confirms for the rest of us that hope is alive!

  • MojoMark

    2003/03/13 at 9:27 am

    As a parent myself, it’s hard to imagine what is happening behind the scenes. And I, like most, are amazed and my spirts lifted by her safe return.


    I have lots of questions about “why she didn’t do this or that”. I will however wait for… as Paul Harvey says.. the rest of the story.

    I will also look forward to Brian David Mitchell’s new book “How to Get Control Over Your Teenager”.

  • Marshall

    2003/03/13 at 10:10 am

    The site looks great Heather, and as usual your sentiments are spot-on. It’s nice to hear good news for a change.

  • Brent

    2003/03/13 at 10:19 am

    I’m happy to see Elizabeth’s home — but I’m also glad to see I’m not the only one confused about the whole ordeal. From all accounts she is healthy, and in the photos appears to have put on weight. As such, it doesn’t seem her “captivity” deprived her of the essentials, at least.

    This gal is fifteen years old. If she wanted to return, couldn’t she have flagged down somebody — anybody — during a very long nine months?

    I really hope they come up with a great explanation. It’d be nice to welcome her return without wondering whether, perhaps, she might just have enjoyed her time away from home.

  • Davey Doubtful

    2003/03/13 at 10:40 am

    Taken at face value, a wonderful story. But there is definitely something else going on. Enter the tabloid bottomsuckers. They’re gonna have a field day with this one.

  • dooce

    2003/03/13 at 10:47 am

    why can’t we take it at face value? why are so many of you assuming that she should have acted like an adult and somehow managed to escape? she’s fucking 15 years old, for crying out loud, and she was kidnapped FROM HER BED. not a single one of us can know what she’s been through, really, and just how frightened, brainwashed or drugged she could have been. why are some of you so quick to judge her? that just makes no sense to me.

  • moose

    2003/03/13 at 10:49 am

    Halleluiah indeed. Good news is welcome these days. You know, it’s completely possible she was so intimidated she didn’t feel she could speak up to that cop… and that she could have gotten a bit resigned to her situation after months…especially since she’s a child accustomed to not challenging adults… On the other hand, it will be interesting to find out what truly happened. I doubt there is any question she was taken unwillingly… whether she stayed unwillingly may be a bit foggier. Reminds me of the Patty Hearst story. Are y’all to young to have heard about that?

  • Alyssa

    2003/03/13 at 11:00 am

    As it says on CNN, “Thomas also said that there was no way Elizabeth could have escaped because ‘she said she had two people with her at all times.'” Hell, I’m 22 and I don’t know if I would have tried to escape. It’s amazing how fear can fog your thinking, so no one really can say what they would have done in her situation.

  • Danika

    2003/03/13 at 11:09 am

    I was moved to tears with her return. I watched 48 hours with tears glistening the entire time. What an amazing story.
    I also feel there is more to the story. As to people wondering why she couldn’t just leave they said there were 2 people with her at ALL times. Also its possible they threatened to harm her family if she tried to leave.

  • Glovia

    2003/03/13 at 11:10 am

    Totally dooce. The girl was kidnapped for chrissakes. What’s wrong with you people!

  • Dave

    2003/03/13 at 11:16 am

    I’m not saying anything about her “acting like an adult” by trying to escape. I’m more open to the idea that she was an unhappy teenager who decided to run away. No, I don’t know all the facts. Yes, if she was kidnapped, it’s an amazing story that she’s back with her family. But opinions are opinions, from what I’ve heard.

    Furthermore, if this sort of thinking is passing judgement on anyone it’s the father. I don’t trust what I’ve heard him say, nor the way he looked at his press conference. If anything, this sort of “theory” gives her credit for taking some initiative.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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