October 23, 2014

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Kasich recognizes women held captive for 10 years

Gov. John Kasich presents Amanda Berry, left, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight with awards at Monday’s State of the State address at Medina High School. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Gov. John Kasich presents Amanda Berry, left, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight with awards at Monday’s State of the State address at Medina High School. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

MEDINA — The three women who survived a decade-long captivity in a Cleveland house before being freed received Gov. John Kasich’s annual courage awards on Monday night.

Kasich called the women’s story one of hurt beyond imagination, but also a story that didn’t end there.

“It is also a story of three women who found an inner strength and a courage that brought them through and sustained them,” Kasich said near the end of his annual State of the State speech. “No one rescued them, they rescued themselves — first by staying strong and by sticking together, and then by literally breaking out into freedom.”

The women were freed when one of them pushed her way through a door and sought help.

The presentation nearly overshadowed Kasich’s speech given the women’s popularity since their release. They were household names in Cleveland for years as missing persons, and their discovery electrified a community accustomed to bleaker outcomes.

Kasich hugged the women as he entered the hall before his speech and pictures of that moment quickly flew across cyberspace.

As he announced the awards, Kasich called them “three extraordinary women, who despite having the worst in this world thrown at them, rose above it and emerged not as victims, but as victors.”

The women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight — walked onto the stage to be embraced by the governor and receive their medals. The audience stood and cheered for more than two minutes, the longest ovation of the night. It was a rare case of the trio being together following their rescue.

The women were rescued in May after being kidnapped by Ariel Castro from the streets of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004 at the ages of 14, 16 and 20.