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10 years later: Advocates remember coming together following 'Miracle in Cleveland'

'We all had our issues in the past and separated ourselves' never really did things together, but this incident here with the girls missing brought us together.'

CLEVELAND — Laura Cowan is an activist and advocate for missing women and women in domestic violence situations. These pictures are from more than 10 years ago as she and others went looking for Gina DeJesus, who had gone missing in Cleveland.

"We [were] here when the girls were first announced kidnapped," Cowan remembered. "We had been putting out fliers, all the activists [were] doing vigils, doing marches, anything we could to bring attention to the girls."

Even though it's been a decade, Laura Cowan has vivid memories of hearing about what is now known as the "Miracle in Cleveland." She along with Maosha Vales had been part of separate search parties that traversed Seymour Avenue and the area around it looking for the missing girls.

"Just keep hope alive, be persistent to the police, to your community," Vales said. "Just keep on and keep on and keep on."

Cowan says while it wasn't necessarily a visible part of the Miracle in Cleveland coverage, finding Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight alive changed how groups in the area operated.

"We all had our issues in the past and separated ourselves, never really did things together," Cowan explained. "But this incident here with the girls missing brought us together."

Now they're here, together, on Seymour Avenue, where the house the women were captive in once stood. They are proud of the women the survivors have become since first being freed.

"The girls are thriving, and that's so good," Cowan said. "They could've curled up and been a basket case with what happened to them, but they're all doing good, and they're advocates themselves, in a way."


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