Three women who survived a decade of captivity in an Ohio house before being freed have received bravery awards.
Ohio governor John Kasich called the women’s story one of hurt beyond imagination, but also one that did not end there.
“It is also a story of three women who found an inner strength and a courage that brought them through and sustained them,” he said near the end of his annual state of the state speech.
“No one rescued them, they rescued themselves, first by staying strong and by sticking together, and then by literally breaking out into freedom.”
The women were freed when one of them pushed her way through a door and sought help.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were household names in Cleveland for years as missing persons and their discovery electrified a community accustomed to bleaker outcomes.
Mr Kasich hugged them as he entered the hall in Medina before his speech and pictures of that moment quickly flew across cyberspace.
As he announced the awards, he called them “three extraordinary women, who despite having the worst in this world thrown at them, rose above it and emerged not as victims, but as victors”.
The audience stood and cheered for more than two minutes as the women walked on to the stage to receive their medals.
They were rescued in May after being kidnapped by Ariel Castro from the streets of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004, aged 14, 16 and 20.
Castro periodically kept them chained in rooms, sometimes in the basement, and restricted access to food and toilets. He also fathered a girl with one of the victims.
He pleaded guilty last August to hundreds of charges, telling a judge at his sentencing that he suffered from addictions to sex and pornography, saying:. “I’m not a monster. I’m sick,” he said.
A month later Castro, 53, hanged himself in prison as he began a life sentence plus 1,000 years.
“Is that just unbelievable,” a clearly moved Kasich said to GOP House speaker William Batchelder and GOP Senate president Keith Faber, who were also on stage. “Wow”.
The public appearance was their first since they released a joint video in July to thank all their supporters.
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