PARK CITY — Elizabeth Smart hasn't forgotten the people who noticed her and her kidnappers walking on a Sandy street March 12, 2003.
"I will forever be grateful to them," she said. "Yes, I still think about them."
Smart said the public plays a vital role in finding people who are missing or who have been abducted.
"There are so many more just normal people than there are policemen, law enforcement, the superheros, whatever," she said in an interview Tuesday. "You're naturally going to see more than the law enforcement or the detectives or whoever's on the case."
It was a neighbor in Cleveland who heard screaming that led to the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight on Monday.
Smart said she was driving in the car when her father called her with the news.
"I just couldn't be any happier. What a miracle," she said, adding that it gives hope to families who are still missing loved ones.
Smart said she was "awestruck" by the strength the three women have shown.
"I would want them so much to know that nothing that anybody else can do to them will ever diminish their value. Each of us are born with value that will never leave for our entire life," she said.
Smart created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which brings awareness to predatory child crimes. And she is working on a memoir about her experiences and how she turned them into a way to advocate for children.
Now 25, she is married and living in Park City. She is finishing a music degree at Brigham Young University. She also has been busy traveling across the country giving speeches and doing advocacy work.
Smart said she can't fathom how someone could hold three women hostage for 10 years.
"What level do you have to get to to think that's OK or that you can do that or have the right to do that?" she said. "It's just mind blowing to me."
Smart said she has been able to reclaim her life with the support of her family.
"They've always been there for me. They've never deserted me or left me alone or given up on me. I'm so blessed because not every child has that," Smart said.
She also relied on advice her mother gave her shortly after she returned home from her nine-month ordeal.
Smart said her mother told her words can't describe what Brian David Mitchell did to her and that he stole nine months of her life that she will never get back. But the best punishment she could give him was to be happy and move forward. And dwelling on the past and holding on to the pain would give him more of her life that he doesn't deserve.
"When my mom said that to me I made the decision that I would never think that way, I was never going to let him get the better of me," Smart said.
She said she would never trade her life for anyone else's.
"Certainly, I wish it hadn't happened to me. But at the same time, it's opened up so many doorways for me to be able to help other people that otherwise I wouldn't have been able to do, otherwise I wouldn't be able to be involved in trying to make difference so that other people don't have to go through the same things I went through," Smart said.
"All in all, I'm an extremely blessed person."
Contributing: Jennifer Stagg
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