CLEVELAND– A short phone call changed her life.
“I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now,” she told dispatch.
What followed was a whirlwind of reunions and a media frenzy. But it eventually calmed down. Now, five years later, Berry is still trying to soak it all in.
“It was so much, so fast and it was so surreal. Because it was all I wanted for 10 years and to finally have that? It was just amazing,” Berry said.
Her new freedom was a major adjustment. Returning home left her feeling like she was still 16 years old, the age when she was kidnapped.
“In the first year, it was so hard to just go out and live a normal life because I was still so scared of all the possibilities, everything that could go wrong. The scary things,” Berry said.
“I think now I’m getting a little more comfortable in my skin, making decisions for myself. That was really hard in the beginning, making decisions for myself because being told what you’re doing for 10 years, what you’re eating, when you’re going to sleep. I mean, all those things get to you and you kinda get used to it and that’s your normal.”
Berry’s experiences mean she doesn’t take anything for granted: fresh air, rain and waking up to make her own choices. Sometimes, she pauses to appreciate the simple moments.
“Walking out my front door, feeling the sunshine because, gosh, I waited for that for so long,” she said. “I mean, it’s just the small things: To get in my car, to take my daughter to the store. If I want something to drink I can go to the store and get it myself, and drink what I want or eat what I want. It’s so simple that you don’t think. Or brushing your teeth. I remember brushing my teeth and taking a shower, and I just felt so good.”
Her responsibilities as a mother helped her find a sense of normalcy. Her daughter has become a kind-hearted and somewhat sassy girl.
“I’m so proud of how much she’s grown as a person. She’s very caring. And a lot of kids her age are not like that and I find that she is,” Berry said.