“So, you know, I figured it was a domestic-violence dispute…”

The happy ending to a terrible and frightening story of three missing women held in captivity in a Cleveland neighborhood for over ten years:  They have been reunited with their families because a neighbor intervened in what he thought was a domestic violence incident.

Charles Ramsey “heard screaming. I’m eating McDonald’s. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the house.” He and several other neighbors broke through the door and got the woman, Amanda Berry (now 27 years old), who had been missing for ten years, and a small child out of the house. Once Berry was out, she identified who she was and told Ramsey and the others of the two other women, Gina DeJesus (now 23 years old), and Michelle Knight (now 30 years old).

Charles Ramsey in a singular interview showed us a few things: 1) If you see something, say something, and DO SOMETHING. 2) Feminism lives in our cultural fabric when your neighbor sees you embroiled in a perceived domestic violence conflict, and he intervenes. He won’t look away, he’ll find the courage and reinforcements to break down the door to get you out. There are too many instances where we look away; these women are alive and free because Ramsey believed that he should intervene. 3) That searches for missing persons are constant campaigns, and the commitment of families and law enforcement is a marathon of public awareness. Last month a vigil was held in honor Gina DeJesus on the anniversary of her disappearance.

I’m already bemoaning the memes, the autotuned news edition, and other fallout for what is honestly an act of valor from Charles Ramsey. I do not wish this man to become a joke, or mimicked. He showed us how the average person can be an actor in seeking justice for your fellow neighbor by doing the uncomfortable work of getting involved, breaking three cold cases wide open.

Mazal tov.

If anyone has a chance to add a transcript in the comments, we’d be very grateful!  Transcript after the jump thanks to commenter Emily! 


Reporter: Hey Charles, let me talk to you. I’m talking to Charles Ramsey he’s a neighbor. Walk me through again what happened this afternoon, you heard screaming?

Ramsey: I heard screaming, I’m eating my McDonald’s. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the house. So I go on the porch, I go on the porch, she says, “Help me get out, I’ve been in here a long time.” So, you know, I figured it was a domestic violence dispute. So, I open the door, we can’t get in that way. ‘Cause, how the door is, it’s so much, a body can’t fit through, only your hand. So, we kicked in the bottom. She comes out with a little girl and she says, “Call 911, my name is Amanda Berry.”

Reporter: Did you know who that was when she said that?

Ramsey: When she told me it didn’t register until I got to calling 911 and I’m like “I’m calling 911 for Amanda Berry, I thought this girl was dead?” You know what I mean? And, she got on the phone and she said, “Yes, this is me.” The detective Cook, right here, Detective Gregory Cook, says, “Charles, do you know who you rescued?”


Reporter: Now, when did you see, when did you see Gina?


Ramsey: About five minutes after the police got here see the girl, Amanda, told the police, “I ain’t just the only one there’s some more girls up in that house.” So they go on up there, you know, thirty, forty deep. And when they came out it was just astonishing. I thought they would come up with nothing. I figured, I mean, whoever she was and like I said, my neighbor, you got to have some big testicles to pull this off, bro. ‘Cause we see this dude every day. I mean every day.

Reporter: How long have they lived here?

Ramsey: I’ve been here a year. You see it coming, bro? I barbecued with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot, listen to salsa music. You saw it coming, bro?

Reporter: You had no indication that there was anything…?

Ramsey: Not a, bro, not a clue, that that girl was in that house or anyone else was in there against their will. Because how he is, is, he comes out to the backyard, plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars, motorcycles, goes back in the house. So, even sometimes you look and you look away because he’s not doing nothing but the average stuff. You see what I’m saying? There’s nothing exciting about him. Well, until today.

Reporter: What was the reaction on the girls’ faces, I can’t image to see the sunlight, to be… ?

Ramsey: I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something’s wrong here. Dead giveaway. Dead Giveaway.

Reporter: Charles, thank you very much. Thank you very much for your time.

Ramsey: Either she homeless or she got problems. That’s the only reason why she’d run to a black man.

Reporter: Charles, thank you. Thanks for being there, man. Charles Ramsey, neighbor, heard the screaming, took action, went and did what he needed to do. The rest is unfolding before use here.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

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