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Leon Bibb: The story Cleveland cannot forget

10 years have passed since three young women were rescued from a house they were imprisoned in. What has time done to a community where evil lived among us?

CLEVELAND — On Cleveland's near west side, Seymour Avenue steps into another spring.

Seasonal growth is pushing up. Spring establishes its foothold on the street.

Generally, there is a peace in the air. Far distant from the atmosphere of a decade ago, when peace had been shattered.

A decade ago, Cleveland uncovered a horrible secret which had been hidden inside a house until it spilled out in all its horrendous way. This is the story Seymour Avenue, nor Cleveland, can forget.

For a decade, this city, this street, and the victims held captive here have struggled with the crimes of the past which had begun ten years before the rest of the world found out.

This was the house of horror. Behind its walls and shuttered windows, torturous crimes unfolded for more than a decade.

In May 2013, three kidnapped women were freed after years of depraved captivity.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus had been locked in a house-turned-dungeon for a decade. A third woman – Michelle Knight – was held captive for 11 years. All at the hands of the kidnapper Ariel Castro, who lived here too where he imprisoned the women.

In 2003, there began the long search for the women who had simply vanished from Cleveland as if the world had swallowed them up.

That is until ten years later, when Amanda Berry somehow broke away, darting to the daylight of Seymour Avenue sidewalks only yards away.

Worldwide the story went. Three women — one of them a girl at the time of her kidnapping — had somehow survived chained inside a Cleveland house owned by a strong-armed man Ariel Castro. All the time, who held and tortured the women, while at the same time covering any tracks by pretending to join community searches for the missing women.

From abductions to the rescues, the seasons of the year changed 40 times. 

But that spring of 2013 when Amanda Berry crawled out of the dungeon to the surprised and open arms of Seymour Avenue the world learned of what had been hidden almost in plain sight.

Journalists from throughout the world of 2013 beat a pathway to Cleveland to tell the torturous tale.

I covered every aspect of the story — from the women's disappearances to the 10-year searches to the interviews of their loved ones to their rescues. In the speed of the electronic age, the story — the rescues of the trio in what became known as the "Miracle in Cleveland" — went worldwide. 

Even the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interviewed me about the whole ordeal.

Ten years since the rescue, 10 years since the arrest of Ariel Castro (convicted), 10 years since the judge sentenced Castro to life plus an additional 1,000 years for kidnapping, torturing, and imprisoning the three women.

Months later, Castro killed himself in his prison cell.

The three women have moved on —,Amanda Berry. Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, who has changed her name to Lily Rose Lee.

After the court case, the city tore down the house of horror, erasing it from Seymour Avenue's and Cleveland's sight, but horrible memories are far harder to erase.

Where there was horror, there is now a greenspace on Seymour. Spring growth is poking through the soil, in some ways symbolic of the wish for new life that spring can bring.

Still, Seymour struggles to find sure footing again in this season of change and time of reflection. Memories of what happened here run deep.

So, Seymour Avenue steps into another Cleveland changing season, aware that although it comes slowly, spring does come.

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