ELIZABETHTON — Ten years of worry and anguish in the Berry household has given way to joy and happiness when the family learned that family member Amanda Berry was safe and sound after escaping 10 years of captivity.
Amanda was rescued in Cleveland on Monday. She was kidnapped the day before she turned 17. Although she lived in Ohio, she had always maintained close contact with the side of her family in Elizabethton, including her grandmother and grandfather.
Crystal Milton said she was only two years older than her cousin Amanda and they had always been close.
“Even though we lived far apart, we would always see each other each year because she would come down here and we would go up there,” Crystal said.
“She loved to come down here and she especially loved to go camping up at Clarktown,” Crystal said.
Although it has been 10 years, Crystal said she never gave up hope that Amanda would be found. “Even after so many years, never. We always hoped,” Crystal said.
Crystal not only kept hoping for Amanda’s return, she helped keep Amanda’s memory alive in a new generation of cousins who were not even born when Amanda disappeared. Now, Christina Milton, 8, Hannah Berry, 8, and twins Harley and Haley Berry, 9, are looking forward to meeting Amanda, someone they have heard about for their entire lives, for the first time.
“I think this is awesome because she is my cousin and I love her,” Christina said. “This is the happiest day of my life.”
When she saw on Facebook that Amanda had been rescued, Christina said “I cried because my prayers have been answered.”
Although she has not met her cousin or even talked to her on the telephone, Christina said “I think she is a really nice person.”
Some family members have had a chance to talk with Amanda by phone. Her uncle, Curtis Berry, said, “I talked to Amanda (Monday) night and my mother talked to her (Tuesday) Morning. From what I can hear, she is holding her own pretty good.”
The family is already discussing bringing Amanda down for a visit, perhaps in a month if she feels well.
Crystal said there are just too many family members in East Tennessee who want to see her for everyone to make the trip to Ohio. Besides, she wants to take her cousin back to Clarktown again.
Throughout the years Clarktown has remained a favorite playground and a sancrosanct place for the family and now a whole new generation of cousins enjoy trips there. Christina was eagerly talking about another trip there and Crystal said she wanted Amanda to see the family cemetery. “There are a lot more people there now than when Amanda saw it last,” Crystal said.