NBC News | October 04, 2013
>>> over the course of nine months, elizabeth smart had gone from terrified little girl to now manipulating her own rescue. she had tricked her captors into hitchhiking hundreds of miles across the desert back to utah. but suddenly it didn't seem like such a good idea.
>> i remember watching car after car pass and just feeling like i convinced them to hitchhike back. what if we don't make it back alive?
>> somehow, they did. on march 12th , 2003 , they arrived in the town of sandy, just south of salt lake city . still, elizabeth didn't feel victorious. you went to a walmart at one point.
>> and there was a wall of posters of missing children and you went to see your face to see if anyone was looking for you, and you didn't see it.
>> i didn't see it. and when i was looking at it, mitchell grabbed hold of my arm and he pulled me away and said stop drawing attention to yourself, like get out of here, like don't look at that board. i wondered did they forget me, did they give up on me?
>> why aren't you there?
>> why am i not up there? i'm still missing.
>> but not for long. someone had seen mitchell 's photo on "america's most wanted" and called 911.
>> yes, could you tell me is this where i call if i think i see that emmanuel they're looking for?
>> this is it.
>> as they walked out of the walmart, she had no idea her horrifying ordeal was about to be over. suddenly they were surrounded.
>> and the police cars all pulled up and they all jumped out and they started asking questions.
>> they wanted to know if she was elizabeth smart . even then she hesitated.
>> i was scared. what if the policemen didn't believe me? what if they released me back to mitchell and bardzy, what would they do to me?
>> at first she didn't identify herself. still the police were sure she was elizabeth smart . so she whisked her to a nearby police station and called her parents. ed smart rememberings bursting into the room.
>> and i just started crying, and finally i said, elizabeth , is it you? and she said, yes, dad, it's really me. then she started to cry.
>> what was it like to see your dad?
>> i was so happy when i saw him, when he came running over and just grabbed me in his arms, i knew that nobody would ever be able to hurt me ever again.
>> elizabeth 's rescue was a huge story. many who'd followed the case had long since assumed she was dead. now everyone wanted to hear from her. but all she wanted was to be with her family. she even wanted to sleep in her own bed, the very same one from which she'd been kidnapped. did you sleep much that night?
>> no, in and out checking her. is it really true? from that time life was just carried on how it had been, our old routine.
>> but what could possibly be root even about this young girl 's life after being brutalized for so long? after this kind of trauma, nine months of this, did you receive a lot of therapy? how did you move on?
>> well, i think it's first important to note that everyone is different. for me i had what i would consider a lot of different kinds of therapy.
>> though she did get some traditional counseling, elizabeth said it was the simple things like her music that gave her the most comfort. and it was her mom, she says, who provided the key for true healing.
>> she said, elizabeth , what this man has done to you is terrible. he has stolen nine months of your life that you will never get back, but the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy.
>> so elizabeth refused to dwell on those terrible nine months, even if her ordeal with mitchell did leave its scars.
>> he'd stolen all the excitement from going on a first date, to getting your first kiss, to i mean, even, even a first makeout. and i feel like all of that had been taken away from me, that i would never have that chance.
>> but she did. last year she got married. in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of "people" magazine.
>> we met in america.
>> her husband's name is matthew gilmour. he's from scotland. and they met through the mormon church . he says he knew nothing of elizabeth 's past until she told him. and you're immediate reaction?
>> i was surprised because, like, when i think of someone that's been through something like that, i would think it would be depressed. so i was very surprised to find how well she's overcome it.
>> the couple is talking about starting a family, but right now 25-year-old elizabeth is focused on giving back.
>> the scariest night of my life happened 11 years ago.
>> she's sharing her story to help other victims of abuse, hoping that even with all its terrible details, it will help them move on just like she has. coming back here to the place where her kidnapper raped and tortured her doesn't faze elizabeth smart now. the young girl who was held captive even faced her tormentor again at his trial in 2010 . when they made eye contact, she knew that brian david membershitchell no longer had the power to terrify her.
>> i had moved forward. he was no longer a part of my life. he no longer could hurt me. all of that was far away and long ago, that he was nothing to me any more. he had no part, no part in my life.
>> what did brian david mitchell not understand about elizabeth smart ?
>> that i couldn't be broken. that he could, he could hold me captive, but i would survive. that i was stronger than he ever thought i was.
>> an extraordinary journey of courage, determination and faith. i'm meredith vieira . for all of us at nbc news, good night.