Another one of these terrible, decade-long horror stories of sexual slavery has been exposed this week, in Cleveland, Ohio. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, three girls who disappeared about a decade ago (from 2002 to 2004) and were presumed dead, have been discovered and rescued. 52 year old school bus driver Ariel Castro has been arrested and charged for their kidnapping and rape (I think). Takes a special kind of psycho to reduce somebody else's life to your twisted sexual desires for a complete decade. Takes an Olympic champion of psycho to do this to three girls at once.
There is still death penalty in Ohio and like many of you, I hope Ariel Castro rides the needle. I hope he does after a long, emotionally draining legal battle and that on execution night, there is a painful mishap with the lethal cocktail and that he goes out drowning in pain. He doesn't deserve any better. As a storyteller though, I can't help but find this story fascinating.
What differentiates the Cleveland horror from the Natascha Kampusch or the Elizabeth Fritzl case, is that they were three, young girls about the same age, living this nightmare together. How was it? Were they friends or did Castro make them compete with each other in sadistic games? Could they talk to each other or were they kept in separate, isolated room? What happens now? Have they formed a bound that will keep them close forever or will the mere sight of each other will make them relive this unspeakably long ordeal? Being almost adults and having each other will either made surviving this a lot easier or a lot tougher.
Like many others, I am fascinated by Charles Ramsey, the colorful neighbor who saved the girls. He sounds like he escaped from a Joe Lansdale novel. Seriously, how humane is that dude? I agree his initial interview was uproarious and fully deserving of making him a social media darling. The guys behind the Huntsville Bed Intruder Song even made him the supreme honor of giving him his own song Dead Giveaway. In case you doubt the good intention behind that move, read about what it did to Antoine Dodson, the "auteur" of the Huntsville Bed Intruder Song. Not bad for a kid who lived in the project and didn't have much of a future in life.
Beyond that, I find Ramsey even more fascinating during serious interviews. In this interview or in this one, with Anderson Cooper where he recalls the small, mundane details of his life as Ariel Castro's neighbor and tries desperately to find meaning to them. He had been living there for only a year and he feels guilty about it. He's visibly a hard, working-class man who must have been saving all his life to afford that house. He said to Anderson that the only thing who kept him up at nigh before was money, so paying mortgage on that house must've been the challenge of his life before it happened.
Ramsey doesn't think he's a hero. He claims he just did the right thing. I beg to differ. The word "hero" is being thrown around in multiple situations, given multiple meanings, but what Charles Ramsey did last Monday I believe was truly heroic. You don't need to risk your life to change one. But Ramsey took a rather important risk. He went on his neighbor's property and busted down his door. He didn't know the extent of the horror on the other side, but if it was anything less than that, he would have run into legal problems. A friend of mine cynically remarked on my Facebook page that the cops would find a way to charge him for breaking and entering. That was meant to be ironic, but sillier things happened. Maybe it was mindless, but not everybody would have done what Ramsey did.
Charles Ramsey is a hero, whether he wants it or not. He turned down the FBI reward for finding the girls on air with Anderson and nobly offered to give them to the girls, showing his pay check on air. His life will forever be tied to the house of horrors he lived next to. I hope we'll make up to him, somehow. I hope McDonald's will hold its promises to him. I hope the iTunes royalties from Dead Giveaway go to him and help him pay his mortgage. If anything, he has earned the quiet, carefree life he seemed to have been longing for, before any of this happened. He will forever remain a symbol of everything good about humanity in the internet age.
See what I see in this story?