GIRARD - For Elizabeth Smart, the best advice she received after living in captivity for nine months has been to live a happy life.
"We don't have to allow our bad days to hold us back," Smart, 24, told a crowd of more than 600 women at the Healthy Woman Conference held at the Mahoning Country Club.
Smart described herself as a very shy 14-year-old girl who only looked forward to getting out of junior high school when she was kidnapped on June 5, 2002.
On that morning, Smart thought she was having a nightmare when she heard a male voice say, ''I have a knife at your neck. Don't make a sound and come with me."
Smart described traveling up one side of the mountain and down the other, further than she had traveled before.
"I was stopping my captor and asking him, 'Do you realize what you're doing. If you let me go now, my family will not prosecute.'''
The man - she later would come to know him as Immanuel - responded that he would never be caught. Immanuel was later identified as Brian David Mitchell.
Smart said she believed she would be raped and killed.
"I was so scared," she said. "I don't remember praying so hard."
Instead, the man took her on the other side of the mountain, where there was a clearing and there was a six-person tent. Out of the tent came a gray-haired woman.
"She looked like she walked out of 'The 10 Commandments,''' Smart said.
The woman took her into the tent and tried to bathe Smart. She said said she resisted until the woman, later identified as Wanda Ileen Barzee, threatened to call Immanuel to do the washing instead.
When he came into the tent, Smart said she already knew what was going to happen to her. She said she felt so worthless afterward and was afraid that her parents would not want her anymore.
"I thought the children who were raped and killed had it better than I had," she said. "At least, they were in a better place. I thought my life was over."
What kept Smart going was her determination to make it. She did not forget the sound of her mother's voice.
"I remembered she once told me I only had to worry about two people's opinions, God's and my mom's opinion," Smart said. "She said she would always love me."
Smart said it was that thought that kept her going through the nine months, even during the cruelest actions.
It was when they were hitchhiking that at least two people saw her and called the police to tell them where she could be found.
"When my father arrived at the police station, he ran over to me, gave me a hug so tight that I thought I was going to be strangled," she said. "Well, at least it would be out of love.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity the ordeal the experience has given me to speak to others about child abuse and child safety," she said. Smart said her foundation has partnered with a program called radKIDS, a child empowerment program that helps kids understand when it is OK to resist adults.