Every morning is the best morning for Ed Smart.
With his 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, safely home almost nine months after being taken from her bedroom in the early morning hours of June 5, Smart said the full impact of her return hits him when he finds her still sleeping in her bed.
"We are just so thankful to the Lord to have her back," Smart said during Tuesday's Salt Lake County Council meeting. "It's almost normal; it's truly wonderful. Every morning I get up and go to her room, and my heart just sings with joy."
Smart made an unexpected appearance at the meeting, where county leaders were honoring Nancy and Rudy Montoya and Anita and Alvin Dickerson — the people who first sighted accused kidnapper Brian David Mitchell in Sandy on March 12 — the dispatchers who handled the two 911 phone calls, and the police officers who found Elizabeth. In thanking all of them, Smart said that their actions defied cynicism about humanity, and because of them his daughter has a chance at leading a normal life.
"Many times people don't understand there is love, there is concern, there is unselfishness out there," he said. "If Elizabeth were here with me today, you would see a different person than you saw on March 12. She is doing so well, and it is thanks to all of you."
Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman said during the ceremony that finding Elizabeth "thrilled not only Salt Lake, not only Utah, but the nation," something for which the people providing the tips, the police, and the dispatchers could take full credit. Yet all of the "heroes" that contributed to finding her would not have had a chance without the persistence of Smart.
"Talk about a father who never lost faith, who stayed with it and encouraged and made us keep Elizabeth on the front of our minds," Workman said to Smart. "I gave up hope. I thought, you've just got to let it go. But you stayed with it, and my gosh, you got her back."
After the meeting, Workman said that Smart's presence gave an added poignancy to the ceremony, which she had intended as a small public expression of gratitude to the people who found Elizabeth.
"I just thought it would be nice to give those officers and people some sort of recognition," she said. "When I saw him (Smart), I about fell over. It added tons to the event, and made it more personal and meaningful for the ones we honored."