“If you lived under intimidation and threats constantly, you know, what would you do? I think Elizabeth turned inside and survived,” Ed told Katie Couric on Dateline in October 2003 during the family’s first TV sit-down since Elizabeth came home. Every network had been angling for the big interview, and NBC got it as part of a package deal with Doubleday, which was publishing the Smarts’ book. (CBS, however, aired the first TV movie, The Elizabeth Smart Story, that November.)

He added, “They were nine months that you couldn’t imagine ever happening in your life, ever. To think that somebody would come into the house and take her was just, something you couldn’t believe would ever happen.”

Neither her parents nor Elizabeth, still shy of her 16th birthday, went into very much detail about what she endured. “I think there’s some things different about me,” the teen said, “but I think I’m still pretty much the same person.”

Mitchell had forced her to keep a journal, though he’d largely tell her what to write in it. In her own show of secret rebellion, Smart would make notes in French expressing her true feelings about the situation.

Asked what one of the best things about being home was, she said, “Um, just being back and not having to be, like, told I’m a horrible, evil, wicked, evil, evil girl every 10 seconds.”

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