USA vs. Dorothy Lee Barnett

The Dorothy Lee Barnett Story

Lee and Sam

This is a love story, and like any good love story it is about making life-altering choices. This isn’t an ordinary love story but one about an undying, fierce and protective love for my daughter, Savanna.

I left the United States with my daughter, Savanna in 1994 with forged passports and a desperate need to fulfill the promise I made to her, ‘Mommy will always protect you”.  Through five countries, nearly 20 years, a second marriage, another child and imprisoned, I eventually was returned to  Charleston, South Carolina. Now I’m here and free to tell the true story.

A very wise lady suggested that I tell the story from my heart exposing my emotions about the devastation Samantha and I suffered at the hands of others and what I had to endure for the past twenty-three years. The problem is that I’ve buried those feelings in order to do what I had to do. Survival didn’t grant me the luxury of delving into how I feel about it, only what to do about it. 

As I walked on a secluded beach pondering the suggestion, I thought long and hard about how I could break through to the person I used to be, the carefree happy-go-lucky person I was before August 1992.  Beautiful brightly colored shells adorned the beach, many intact and alive with their original inhabitants. Others were mere remnants of a shell once strong and proud, now worn down by years of waves beating them against the sand and shore. I realized these worn down shells were like me. They had survived vicious turmoil and emerged not in their original form, but still recognizable to those who had known them before.  Now their strong, protective shells have been replaced by weak, thin shells riddled with holes and sand packed crevasses. They have become vulnerable and fragile, making them susceptible to the elements.

An expression often used in Thailand came to me, “Same Same But Different.” That in a nutshell describes me, as I now appear to my family, friends and even to myself. As I look long and hard in a mirror, I realize my shell has changed and weakened with the continual motion to keep moving, always trying to keep one step ahead, getting knocked back and forth, all along to my end objective, keeping my family together.

This constant movement has kept me unaware of how much of a change has actually occurred. One-foot forward day after day, a mundane routine I knew so well, all orchestrated to keep my daughter safe while striving for a normal happy life for my little family and keeping the secret.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another”.

Anatole France