Officer Barbara Johnson has described the moment she rescued Michelle Knight in the Cleveland house of horrors, 11 years after the 32-year-old was abducted.
When she found Michelle Knight, the woman grabbed her tightly and begged her not to leave her, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
“Michelle hugged me first, then clutched me and said, <<Don’t let me go>>,” Barbara Johnson said at an awards ceremony for the officers involved in the miraculous rescue.
“You can’t really describe how I felt…it rips the heart out of my chest.”
The rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus a decade after they were all feared dead has been called the “Miracle in Cleveland”.
For the officers who arrived at Ariel Castro’s home on May 6, it was also a brush with unimaginable horror.
“When I heard there were people in the house, I ran up to the door, but it was locked from the inside,” Officer Michael Simon recalled.
“So I grabbed the hand rail by the stairs to use as a prying tool…but the other officers kicked the door in.
“Once inside, I felt evil in the house.”
Even the veteran officers who are confronted with human tragedy on a frequent basis could not ignore the emotional impact of rescuing the three girls from a decade of captivity.
“I’ve broke down [crying] a few times on the scene, and in private since then,” Officer Anthony Espada – the first officer on the scene – admitted.
“Those three girls are my heroes… after what went through in that house all those years.”