A general view of the exterior of the house where three women who had disappeared as teenagers approximately ten years ago were found alive on May 7, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - One of the Cleveland patrol officers who first responded to Amanda Berry’s 911 call on Seymour Avenue called it overwhelming.
Berry had not been seen in a little more than a decade, but her face remained a fixture of the city through posters and vigils. Cleveland Police public information officer Jennifer Ciacia spoke with Patrol Officer Anthony Espada and asked him what it was like to discover Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight all alive and all in the same house.
“We see this girl. She’s like raising her hand, holding a child,” Espada said. “I’m looking at my partner—‘Is it her?’ He said, ‘I can’t tell.’”
Moments later, when their police car got closer to the young woman on the porch, his partner looked at him and said “It is her.” Another bombshell came quickly to the two officers, when Berry said Gina DeJesus and another woman, who turned out to be Michelle Knight, were still inside the house.
“As we were going up the steps, it was so quiet, like peaceful. Almost as if, I started thinking we are going to clear this top floor and no one’s going to be there,” Espada said. He was walking toward a room when Knight appeared in the doorway. “Within moments, she came charging at me. She jumped onto me… She’s like ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ And I’m holding onto her so tight.”
DeJesus came out of the same bedroom and told the officers exactly who she was.
“My name is Georgina DeJesus,” the patrol officer recalled.
“I mean, it took everything to hold myself together. You know, I have Michelle in my arms… And then you got Gina coming out. It was like one bombshell after another.” Then Espada got to broadcast on the police radio the three magic words: “We found them.”
Espada wrapped up his story with this:
“It couldn’t have gotten any better than that, that day. I don’t feel like a hero. I’m just glad I was there, you know, just making sure they were safe. I feel so happy for them. It is just unbelievable. It goes through my mind every day. I couldn’t imagine the past 10-12 years what they went through. It just keeps playing back, in my mind, you know. I can still picture us just pulling up, seeing Amanda – couldn’t believe it. Her telling us Gina might be in the house – going in the house. I just keep replaying it and replaying it every day since it happened. I’m just glad just to be a part of it, all of the officers there on the scene that day.”
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