Cleveland kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were awarded the 2014 Ohio Courage medals Monday by Gov. John Kasick, who said that their determination and perseverance were an inspiration for all Ohioans.
The medals were given at Kasich's State of the State address in Medina, near Cleveland.
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Ariel Castro, 53, was convicted last year for holding the three women against their will, at times in chains, at his Cleveland home, the longest for 10 years. Castro captured Knight when she was 21 in 2002, and then kidnapped Berry in 2003 and DeJesus in 2004, when they were teens.
Neighbors helped the women escape last year when they spotted Berry calling for help from the home. Castro was sentenced last August to life in prison plus 1,000 years for kidnapping, rape, and other crimes against the women.
Castro committed suicide in prison by hanging himself on Sept. 3, 2013.
USA Today reported that Kasich said the women's story was one "beyond imagination,"
but one of survival and hope.
"It is also a story of three women who found an inner strength and a courage that brought them through and sustained them," Kasich continued. "No one rescued them, they rescued themselves — first by staying strong and by sticking together, and then by literally breaking out into freedom."
Berry, DeJesus, and Knight were embraced by Kasich as they walked onto the stage to receive their medals. USA Today said the audience gave them a standing ovation for more than two minutes, the longest of the night.
Berry and DeJesus agreed in October to write a book about the ordeal with the Washington Post's Mary Jordan, a Cleveland native, and her husband and fellow reporter, Kevin Sullivan.
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