"My name is Katie and I was kidnapped two days before my 10th birthday."
With that eye-opening introduction out of the way, Katie Beers, now 31, spent the next hour telling about 200 people at a legal workshop on mental health issues Friday what her life was like before, during and after her 17 days being held captive in a concrete underground box by a Bay Shore neighbor.
"The odd thing about my case and my childhood is that it was the best thing that happened to me," she said at a luncheon at the Port Washington Yacht Club sponsored by the law firm Wisselman, Harounian & Associates of Great Neck.
Without the kidnapping, she said, she would have continued living with the abusive couple -- Sal and Linda Inghilleri -- to whom her mother turned her over when she was 2 months old. She would never have met the loving foster parents who raised her in East Hampton after she was freed, and might not have her husband and two children, she said.
Much of what she talked about was familiar to those who had read her memoir, released last year, "Buried Memories: Katie Beers' Story."
Attorney Jacqueline Harounian asked the audience how many of them had reported cases of abuse or neglect as attorneys or mental health professionals, and a sea of hands shot up.
There were murmurs as Beers recalled how police allowed her captor, John Esposito, to sit next to her after they rescued her from his basement on Jan. 13, 1993. She recalled how she was "interrogated, not interviewed" by police, and was not offered food or the chance to shower.
She ended by saying that victims of abuse and neglect are now handled with much greater care, and that she forgave Esposito, who died in prison last year.