(KMOV) – Shawn Hornbeck, who was kidnapped in 2002 and found in Kirkwood five years later, spoke with News 4 on Wednesday offering advice to three kidnapped women found this week inside a Cleveland home.
Hornbeck said while in a lot of way he’s moved on since that day in 2007, he realizes those missing years will be a part of his life forever.
“I feel like it’s a part of my mission in my life to reach out there and be able to help keep the message out there for the awareness of the missing children and the families on how they need to keep their hope up and their strength,” he said.
In October 2002, Hornbeck - then 11 - was kidnapped while riding his bike to a friend’s house in Richwoods, Mo.
When another boy, 13-year-old Ben Ownby, disappeared in January 2007 from near his home in another rural area of Missouri, a frantic search led to the Kirkwood apartment of pizzeria manager Michael Devlin. Five days later, rescuers found Ben and Shawn there.
Their rescue was dubbed the “Missouri Miracle.”
Devlin was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping and abusing the boys.
Hornbeck said he felt nothing but joy when hearing Amanda Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and DeJesus, about 23, had been rescued in Cleveland.
“A lot of people ask me if every time I hear somebody coming home if it brings back the bad memories, it really doesn’t,” he said. “Actually the first memory I think of every time is the first time I saw my parents and the overwhelmed happiness emotion that I got from that.
“I just think to myself I hope those girls felt that exact same feeling I did because they will never forget it.”
But he does admit negative memories sometimes rise to the surface.
“It brings back thoughts, but I just have to remember that it’s in the past, it’s behind me now. I want to look towards the future on how we can help everybody in the whole area, not just those who have been kidnapped or taken from their family,” Hornbeck said.
When asked how he never gave up hope when in captivity, Hornbeck said he had something of a gut feeling.
“I just always knew my family was out there,” he said. “I had like a psychic connection to my mom. We’ve just always been linked to each other and I could just feel her staying strong for me…So I knew I had to.”
Hornbeck, now 21 with his own car payment and cell phone bill, said if he talked to the Cleveland girls he would tell them the worst is over.
“The next part is just living day by day. Just stay strong, don’t rush anything, let everything come natural and let it happen with a normal flow. You can’t push it,” he said.
Hornbeck said the ordeal he lived through doesn’t define him. He wears tattoos with the words “faith” and “respect,” saying he believes God’s purpose for him may be to help others. Soon after he was freed, Hornbeck and his family started a foundation to support families of missing and lost children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.