"This is a special thank you from a strong and resilient woman who will forever be held dearly in the hearts of the police officers and residents of the 2nd district," Cleveland's Police department captioned a photo of Michelle Knight's heartfelt thank you to the people who had collected cards and gifts from her supporters. The Second District Community Relations Committee posted the note to their Facebook page on Thursday.
"Little treasures like this mean a great deal to some of us that have been involved with these young women," the department said in the comment section.
Knight, now 32, was held captive for 11 years with two other women at Ariel Castro's Cleveland home, where he abused and raped them until they escaped last May. Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
Knight appeared in court to make a statement during Castro's sentencing hearing on Thursday. You can read and watch her statement in full below.
Good afternoon. My name is Michelle Knight. And I would like to tell you what this was like for me.
I missed my son every day. I wonder if I was ever going to see him again. He was only 2½ years old when I was taken. I look inside my heart and I see my son. I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day. Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. The years turned into eternity.
I knew nobody cared about me. He told me that my family didn't care even on holidays. Christmas was the most traumatic day because I never got to spend it with my son. Nobody should ever have to go through what I went through or anybody else, not even the worst enemy.
Gina was my teammate. She never let me fall. I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when I was dying from his abuse. My friendship with her is the only thing that was good out of this situation. We said we would some day make it out alive, and we did.
Ariel Castro, I remember all the times that you came home talking about what everybody else did wrong and act like you wasn't doing the same thing. You said, at least I didn't kill you. For you took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.
From this moment on, I will not let you define me or affect who I am. You will live -- I will live on. You will die a little every day.
As you think about the 11 years and atrocities you inflicted on us, what does God think of you hypocritically going to church every Sunday, coming home to torture us. The death penalty would be so much easier. You don't deserve that. You deserve to spend life in prison. I can forgive you, but I will never forget. With the guidance of God, I will prevail and help others that suffered at the hands of others.
Writing this statement gave me the strength to be a stronger woman, and know that there's good -- there is more good than evil. I know that there is a lot of people going through hard times, but we need to reach out a hand and hold them and let them know that they're being heard.
After 11 years, I am finally being heard, and it's liberating.
Thank you, all. I love you. God bless you.