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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Shawn Hornbeck, one of the boys rescued as part of the Miracle in Missouri, has a message of hope for the three kidnapped women found in Cleveland.

"My advice to them is your family is always going to be there for you. Mine have been through thick and thin, and if it wasn't for them, none of this could've been possible. So your family is your strongest thing. And that would be my advice just to know that they're always there for you," said Hornbeck.

Shawn is now 21-years-old and works a full time job. He has a car payment and a phone bill.

"From my experience, what I would tell them, is the worst part of your life is over. You got the rest of your life to look forward to. So pretty much everything from here is pretty much uphill," said Hornbeck about the Cleveland women.

Shawn and Ben Ownby were found January 12, 2007 in Michael Devlin's Kirkwood apartment. Ben had been held for four days, Shawn for four years.

Devlin is serving multiple life sentences for the crimes.

Shawn's parents, Pam and Craig Akers, never gave up hope while Shawn was missing.

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"Stories like this. You just never know. Just because your child's been missing one year, four years,10 years, doesn't mean you're not going to get them back. And if you ever give up that hope, you as the parent, who else is going to keep it up there for you. ," said Pam.

The Akers often contacted the media while their son was missing. A psychic even told them she believed Shawn was dead.

"You know, those are the kind of things you do in times of crisis. And in the back of our minds when we were doing those kinds of interviews and what not, our main focus was this is going to reach millions more people. It's not necessarily that we believe what we're being told. It's just another way to gain more exposure, keep the story out there. It was very difficult to listen to some of those things, and them telling you they're talking to your child from beyond the grave. But until you have proof in hand, you have to go on the assumption that you are going to find your child and everything will be okay," Craig said.

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After Shawn was found, his family did a whirlwind of media to satisfy the public's curiosity, and then stepped back.

"Did all the media. Then decided that's enough. Now we have to step back, become a family again, and figure out where we go from here. And that's when we went into a quiet period and kind of tried to keep the media away. And it wasn't because they were intrusive, we just needed some space to figure out what's next," said Craig.

Shawn said the women in Cleveland need to take life slow and to not rush anything because things will happen naturally.

"You know if they're your friends then they're not going to bother you about it. They're not going to ask you questions, they're not going to try to get any answers. They're just going to be there," said Shawn.

Shawn said the experience doesn't define him. He has a positive upbeat outlook on life - reflected in his tattoos "faith" and "respect."

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"I've acceptedthat it's beenpart of my life," said Shawn.

Shawn said he believes God has a purpose for everyone and his may be to help others.

Investigators in Ohio have said neighbors contacted police when they heard screams or saw a naked woman in the backyard of the suspect's home. It was a neighbor who spotted one of the victims and called 911 which ultimately lead to the women's freedom.

Pam said the public needs to be vigilant and trust their gut if they suspect something is wrong. Keep eyes and ears open because it takes a whole community.

Complete transcript of Shawn, Pam and Craig's interview on Today in St. Louis with NewsChannel 5's Pat McGonigle and Jennifer Blome:

JENNIFER: What process did you go through to get back to everyday life?

SHAWN: Pretty much your process is just taking life as it is. You know just don't expect too much out of it, and don't rush anything. Everything will come natural.

JENNIFER: Pam, I love something you said. This does not define the person, it's just something bad that happened to them.

PAM: That's absolutely true. Just because they went through something bad doesn't mean they can't have a normal life afterwards and continue on with their life. You can't let your bad things rule you or control you. What you do afterwards is what you need to do.

JENNIFER: After Shaw was returned to you, at what point did the media become intrusive? Because you have set boundaries with us now.

CRAIG: Initially after he came home, we knew it was a huge media event, and we had to satisfy a lot of curiosity. So we did a whirlwind media tour. Did all the media. Then decided that's enough. Now we have to step back, become a family again, and figure out where we go from here. And that's when we went into a quiet period and kind of tried to keep the media away. And it wasn't because they were intrusive, we just needed some space to figure out what's next.

PAT: Shawn, what would your advice be to the women in Cleveland?

SHAWN: My advice to them is 'your family is always going to be there for you'. Mine have been through thick and thin, and if it wasn't for them, none of this could've been possible. So your family is your strongest thing. And that would be my advice just to know that they're always there for you.

JENNIFER: What should friends not say to you?

SHAWN: Pretty much, your friends should just accept you for you. You know if they're your friends then they're not going to bother you about it. They're not going to ask you questions, they're not going to try to get any answers. They're just going to be there.

JENNIFER: Why is it bad to ask you questions?

SHAWN: They're not ready to talk about it. When they're ready to talk about it, they'll come out and talk about it. And if you hound somebody about it, then they're just going to get pushed away, and it could actually hurt.

JENNIFER: What's your advice Pam & Craig to bystanders? How can they be more vigilant?

PAM: Well the person that called police did what they should've done. They noticed something they didn't think was right. They did make the call. Since the police didn't actually go in, I guess they could have followed up with police to see if anything came of it. And if not, just constantly continue keeping an eye out. If you have a gut feeling that something's not right, you just follow that gut feeling. Anybody else that is around, you just have to keep your eyes open and your ears open. It's no longer you take care of yourself. It takes a whole community to take care of everybody.

PAT: Pam, what about parents going through what you're going through. How do you hold onto hope?

PAM: Stories like this. You just never know. Just because your child's been missing one year, four years, ten years, doesn't mean you're not going to get them back. And if you ever give up that hope, you as the parent, who else is going to keep it up there for you. Who, if you don't continuously looking for your children, how can you expect the public to continue looking for your children? You just don't stop.

JENNIFER: I remember when the psychic told you Shawn was dead. How did you keep going?

CRAIG: You know, those are the kind of things you do in times of crisis. And in the back of our minds when we were doing those kinds of interviews and what not, our main focus was this is going to reach millions more people. It's not necessarily that we believe what we're being told. It's just another way to gain more exposure, keep the story out there. It was very difficult to listen to some of those things, and them telling you they're talking to your child from beyond the grave. But until you have proof in hand, you have to go on the assumption that you are going to find your child and everything will be okay.

JENNIFER: To sum it up, what would you tell the women in Cleveland from your experience?

SHAWN: From my experience, what I would tell them, is the worst part of your life is over. You got the rest of your life to look forward to. So pretty much everything from here is pretty much uphill.

PAT: Shawn, can I ask you about your tatoos?

SHAWN: I got faith over here. I always say you can't go through life without faith, whether it be a religion or somebody, or just even within yourself. And that's just how I feel about it.

PAT: And you got another one.

SHAWN: I got respect over here because you have to have some respect in your life whether it be yourself or other people. So it's just something I have strong feelings about.

JENNIFER: Do you have any symptoms of Post-traumatic stress or have you totally let go of the past and moved on?

SHAWN: You never really let go because it's a part of you that's going to be there. But I don't let it get me down or bother me. I've accepted that it's been part of my life, and they say God has a reason for everything and everybody. And this could be my purpose, to help and reach out to these people.

PAT: It seems your message is you're not what happened to you, you are what you are today, and you are what you are moving forward.

SHAWN: It's not who you are on the outside that defines you, it's who you are on the inside

JENNIFER: How will this affect you when you become a parent?

SHAWN: Honestly, I don't think its going to affect me at all. I'm going to do what any other parent would do. I'm going to look out for my kids and make sure they're as safe as they can be.

JENNIFER: After all the interviews today are you going private again?

SHAWN: Probably for a little bit.

JENNIFER: We should tell our viewers, what are you doing now? You're 21.

SHAWN: Yep, I'm 21. I work a full-time job. I'm just a regular 21 year-old. I got a car payment that I make, phone bill, nothing abnormal.

JENNIFER: How often do people ask you questions?


SHAWN: I actually just get a lot of 'you know who you look like?'

JENNIFER: And what do you say?

SHAWN: I tell them. And they tell me they're happy to see me, and that I'm doing well, and they all wish me the best of luck in life.

JENNIFER: You a Blues fan?

SHAWN: I'm more of a Cardinals fan. Don't get me wrong, hockey's nice and everything. But baseball's always been my sport.

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