Seymour Survivors: First Year of Freedom

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CLEVELAND -- What a surprise it was to hear from Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight in July of 2013, two months after their rescue, when they posted statements on YouTube.

The Seymour survivors have stayed relatively quiet over the past year, and with good reason ... they lost so much time, that it was important to reconnect with their family and friends.

We have seen them out a few times. Michelle being honored at a benefit in Hinckley, Amanda standing with Nelly at a concert in downtown Cleveland, Gina at the annual Puerto Rican day parade waving to the crowd.  Small moments that gave us hope that the survivors were starting to live their lives as free women.

"Ever since she's been home, I've seen a shine on two parents that it's like their whole life was in pause, and it started all over again," said Pastor Angel Arroyo, who has known the DeJesus family for years.  He knows that Gina getting out every once in a while is so important to her growth.

"I think it's cool that everybody is giving her space and leaving her alone," said Arroyo.

Leaving the survivors alone has been a conscious decision for Clevelanders, but recently, their absence from the public eye has been part of a contract. All three of the women will be featured in upcoming books. It's a way for the women to tell their stories while still staying out of the public eye. The stories they tell will be available for those who want to read, but will not be spoken about until the books are released.

Gina and Amanda have collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and native Clevelander Mary Jordan.

"They're doing great," stated Jordan. "I see them and talk to them all the time. It's really remarkable."

Mary was in town recently for an event, and says the book based on what happened to Gina and Amanda, to be released in May of 2015, is coming along very well.

"These are two amazing women, and I'm happy to help them tell their story, that's all about the resilience of the triumph of the human spirit," said Jordan.

Michelle Knight also has a book, it's called "Finding Me," set to be released on May 6 of this year, the one year anniversary of the rescue.  Michelle has been the most visible of the three, releasing balloons on the day that Castro's home was demolished. Michelle has also been the most vocal of the group, not hesitant about sharing her emotions through words or song.

All three women appeared together recently at Governor Kasich's State of the State Address. It's the first time the three have been seen in public as a group of survivors.

"And I speak for them, that they are very grateful to Cleveland for all the help and the warm embrace that the city has given them since they've gotten out," emphasized Mary Jordan.

So much growth, so much growing up still left to do, Amanda, Gina, and Michelle have the resources thanks to you. Over $1.2 million has been collected through the Cleveland Courage Fund. Enough to help these women get their lives in order, to get stronger, and to be as far away from May 6, 2013 as possible.

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