Elizabeth Smart has found a way to turn her personal tragedy into a triumph. Kidnapped at 14 from her Salt Lake City home and rescued nine months later, the girl whose story riveted us all is now a poised, outspoken 23-year-old -- and has been hired as an ABC News correspondent. The network has announced that Smart will be covering missing persons stories for all programs in the news division.
"She'll help our viewers better understand missing person stories from someone with the perspective to know what a family experiences when a loved one goes missing," says an ABC News spokeswoman.
It's certainly not a gig that most kidnapping victims would be eager to take on -- but Smart is a pretty extraordinary person. After being rescued from her harrowing nine months of captivity by a mentally unstable street preacher and his wife, she discussed her ordeal on Dateline NBC, Oprah and Larry King Live. Since then, she has turned missing persons legislation into a personal cause, lobbying for stronger laws to help in cases like her own. Now she's preparing to graduate from Brigham Young University, and is ready to start her life as an adult. To that end, the ABC News rep stresses that Smart will be "looking ahead, not looking back at her own story."
Smart will make her debut in the next couple weeks, although she will not appear in ABC News' upcoming coverage of the Jaycee Dugard case, which has parallels with her own. (Dugard, who was held hostage for 18 years after her kidnapping, will speak to Diane Sawyer on Sunday.) Back in August 2009, Smart appeared on Anderson Copper's CNN show to offer advice to Dugard.
"I would just encourage her to find different passions in life and continually push forward and learn more and reach more for them," said Smart, then 21, "and not to look behind, because there's a lot out there."
It sounds like Smart is ready and eager to help other families who went through ordeals like her own. Hopefully, this new job will let her do exactly that.