An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.

  • Stockholm Syndrome.

  • Libbyo

    I don’t think anyone has the right to say “if… then why didn’t she?” Until you have been what she has been through and walked through her shoes. (not that you have been Dooce, that was very eloquent-this is directed more towards a few signers) Let’s lay the blame where it should be. Nine months is a long time and 14 year old’s are very impressionable.

  • very well said. I think it is times like these that give us all hope for miracles and just remind us how lucky we are to be alive.

  • I also figured she was certainly dead. Very happy occurrence that she’s alive and back with her family.

    I think a lot of people are feeling like there are still many questions left unanswered. Which is no big surprise, since it’s still in the early stages.

    What I like most about this story, though, is how she was found. Just regular people doing the right thing.

    I wish we were all as familiar with the names and faces of all the children that get kindapped as we were with Elizabeth. Heartening to know that it’s the community that helped bring about a “happy ending.” I hope that I’ll be as watchful and caring about the community around me in the future. Unfortunately, too much crap goes on around us that we’re all aware of, yet too often do nothing about.

  • April, that’s the term I was searching for. Stockholm Syndrome. (Look for explanation at

  • Natasha

    I too was shocked when I heard the news bulletin…I told my fiance, “You’re never in a million years going to believe this.” Thank God that she is home and safe.

  • nik

    To anyone who’s wondering why she didn’t try to escape… maybe because her LIFE was threatened. I mean damn it, do you think she would have been better off making a daring run for freedom from a man with a gun? Give the girl credit, she got out of this ALIVE.

  • “It’s just so fucking wonderful.”

    Damn right about that.

  • EC

    Not to be a naysayer, but something is gnawing at me about this too. Of course, that doesn’t diminish the fact that I am extremely happy she is alive. I too wish that we were all so familiar with the names and faces of other missing children. What a wonderful world it would be.

  • I’m pretty sure her kidnappers weren’t telling her “Yeah, your family is looking all over for you.” No matter how much you love your family, being violently taken away from them and told (I assume) that they don’t want you or something to that effect — well, it’s no wonder she never went for help. That and the fact she was never left alone. Poor kid. Let’s all hope no one we love is ever put in that situation.

  • I’m glad she’s back! And I’m sorry for suspecting 50 cent. I still don’t trust that guy.

  • Flipsycab

    Not to be totally insensitive, BUT, dude, I laughed my ass off outloud when I read about putting deoderant on your dog’s stinky feet and the personal whoppee cushion. That was awesome.

  • another josh
    Mar/03132003/utah/37847.asp — gives insight into why she didn’t excape. and heather, drop me a line. it’s been a while.

  • ~Angel

    I sat down this morning after processing the news yesterday, and going through the same emotional roller coaster as everyone else, and made a list of everything I have to be thankful for. It helped, it really did. I have two small beautiful children, and can’t even imagine, nor would I want to, what the Smart’s have been going through.

  • Jas

    The guy’s step-daughter is on Inside Edition today.

    I’m watching inside edition, yeah I’m sad and unemployed.

  • shy

    i haven’t been following the stary as much… being up here in canada. i caught snippets of it. enough to know that she is very lucky to be alive! more don’t make it back home safe to their family…

    heard that the guy involved is believed to be some sort of religious man? prophet of some sort? perhaps a cult-like figure?

    i wonder what the motive was…

  • Meghana

    YEP. I found out about the return of Elizabeth just 2 hours after they found her. I didn’t know her personally, but a few of my friends’ siblings are friends with her and her family. It’s great that she is ok.

  • Brent (dos) – fuck yeah. I like what you had to say.

  • Truly. This has been the first news in weeks that has brought a bit of levity to my world.

    And Interpol? I hear ya. I got to see them the other night, and the CD is in even heavier rotation now…

  • Igor

    Where I live when a child is abducted and not retrieved within 48 hours, the police go on the assumption that the child is dead. I was in the US for a few weeks and heard a lot about this story and believed this girl would be dead as well. I am very pleased to see she’s back home with mom and dad. I’m also glad Dooce is back with a website that’s almost as beautiful as the woman who so lovingly maintains it :-).

  • mt

    I think she was preggers (hence the 9 month disappearance) and her family arranged the whole thing.

  • Powder Fresh Lady Speed Stick? Give that hound a BATH, girl….

  • Michael

    This gives rise to one of my most heinous pet peeves and that is that MTV made Soul Asylum change their Runaway Train video from the faces of missing children to their own faces sitting around playing guitars. As this story plainly shows, we could all be more aware of missing children and the fact that MTV was so irresponsible (while not surprising) makes me wish I could hack into the State of the Union broadcast and denounce them. Fucking sons of bitches.

  • Y. Bee

    The kid did the right thing, she managed to stay alive.

    Made me very happy when I heard about this.

    p.s. Dooce I’m so glad you’re back. This is one of the few blogs I always have to read. You crack me up.

  • Laurie K.

    Thank God thank God thank God.

    What’s gone unsaid, of course, is the fact that this creep was introduced into the child’s world by the parents. Please, people, go hire a contractor, check with the BBB so you don’t get ripped off, so you can exercise some kind of quality control over the people you bring to your home. Don’t, if you have children, go picking up people like this animal. Don’t gamble with your family’s safety for God’s sake. It’s just so irresponsible.

  • By the way, that there would be trampolines in heaven is the best mormon joke ever.

  • truth

    Hey, at least they fed her well.

  • avril levigne

    my name is french for april

  • Your Correction Officer

    Too bad you can’t spell your own name properly.

  • I’ve heard all the stories… about her being a runaway, about her being pregnant… all that. But you know what? There are always suspicious rumors like this when a case is this widespread. I think the only thing we can be sure of is that she was truly brainwashed. I mean, they are saying that people who saw them said she had plenty of time to escape, or at least cry for help. I mean, Emmanuel was in JAIL for six days. It’s all very weird. Either they threatened to hurt her family if she escaped, or they truly truly messed with her head, IMO.

  • I thought the same thing about all the media attention that this missing/kidnapted girl recieved. However, a very shocking statistic was relayed on one of the reports. And that is LESS THAN 2% of all missing persons/kidnapted persons are returned ALIVE. Truly Elizabeth Smart being found was a miracle.

  • PJ

    I would not have bet any money that she would be found alive. Truly amazing.

    After watching all this on TV the last 2 days, I have one question: Is everyone in Utah this good looking?
    The entire family appears to be one attractive, blonde-haired, blue-eyed clan. Even the kids and stepkid of the abductor are good-looking.

    That same day, before I knew she had been found, I grounded my 11-yr old because he left one house to go to another and didn’t tell me where he was, and was gone 2 hours. It’s a sad commentary on, I really don’t know what, but that I get panicky when don’t know where my kid is even in a ‘nice’ neighborhood. He was just at Timmy’s house.

  • But we all know Timmy’s evil. Just say the name over and over. You’ll get the idea…


  • Liz

    For everyone who’s skeptical about her not seeking out help or identifying herself, it’s most likely a sign that you’ve never been in a situation where as a child you’ve been abused. To survive situations like that, people will begin to seek to please their abusers, to the point where you become thankful that they didn’t hurt you, or kill you for another day. The amount of brain warping that happens in childhood and adolescent trauma is immense, not simply in terms of the psychological changes (what is “normal”, or “happy”, or what trust means) but also physiological changes to the brain re: constant exposure to stress hormones. It gets to the point where you believe, realistically or not, that this person holds your life in their hands every moment, and that your mission is to make sure that they don’t find a reason to get angry with you, or find fault, to the point that your vigilance extends to the outside world (i.e., making certain that outside people/things don’t disturb them), because it will quickly become your fault.

    Sadly, all I could think of when I heard about her being found, after the initial euphoria and joy of knowing she was alive, was the amount of pain and trauma she will have to return to in order to heal herself, and how her family will handle the process.

  • You know, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Elizabeth was an unhappy teenage runaway and that she saw the opportunity to escape from an unhappy home with her “abductor”. Maybe she believed that guy’s religous mumbo jumbo and chose to be with him. Everyone’s offering up this and that explanation about why she didn’t escape when she had plenty of opportunities to do so. Stockholm Syndrome? Brainwashing? … But how about the fact that she wanted to be with him? You’ll never hear that one in the media.

    Frankly, she had PLENTY of opportunities to escape, and PLENTY of opportunities to alert authorities, or just about anyone else that she was Elizabeth Smart.

    It’s easier for me to believe that she chose to be with that family, rather than she was with them against her will.

    BTW, PJ has a point, her entire family is beautiful … blond haired, blue-eyed, and rich. I doubt very much that she would even receive the attention that she received if she wasn’t rich, blonde and photogenic. People wouldn’t even give her a second thought if her name was Latisha.

    If she truly was being held against her will, she wasn’t being very smart when she didn’t escape all those times that she clearly could have.

  • Adam

    Not sure where this should be posted. It is a general comment, unrelated to the Smarts. Thought you might be insterested: I found this wonderful site through “” by asking Jeeves: “Why does shit smell?” . Your site was the fourth or fifth suggested link. Who knows what informs the Jeeves search engine, and what led it to dooce. My only two hypotheses: 1) you curse a lot, so the word “shit” may appear more on your website than any other, save 3 or 4, in the world. 2) dooce may be an alternate spelling for the word “dookie”. Maybe that’s what Jeeves was thinking. Anyway, I love the site, and I can’t help but feel a sense of destiny in the way I found it.

  • Adam

    2:20 PM 3.15.03
    Dooce has moved up to #2 on the list when is asked “Why does shit smell?”

  • Y. Bee

    OK this is sort of drifting off topic but no worse than the s*** guy directly above me.

    How come people in Utah look so frigging wholesome? Is it the Mormon thing? Being in New York City I guess I’m used to much more disreputable looking characters. Like even the Smarts (God Bless ‘Em and Elizabeth) I really mean that. It’s just hard to imagine Mr. Smart in a dirty tee shirt watching Baywatch with a can of beer on his belly. That’s the kind of people I’m used to.

    No offense but you guys in Utah all look like Children of the Corn to me. Beautiful but from some alien planet.

    I’ll shut up now. No offense meant really. Just sort of musing on the great variety of the human rainbow or something.

  • Janna

    Well, wouldn’t you try to put on a clean shirt and try to look presentable if you knew you’d have news cameras on you all day?

    On another note: Look, Dooce, they’re wasting your precious toliet paper.

  • If the kidnappers were uber-fundamentalists, then poor Elizabeth underwent “Mormon bootcamp,” if you will! (And I hope you will!)

  • have you seen deans allen’s new puppy posting? Aww…

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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