Surviving Hell on Earth

"I was very interested in working closely with the poor, the oppressed of the world. And I also had a deep interest in working with children. And I felt that was the calling that God was leading me to," she said.

But she was suspected of being involved with rebel fighters, and one day armed men grabbed her off the street.

Sister Ortiz was taken to a military installation where she said she was raped and tortured.

"At one time, during the torture, they asked me questions," she said. "And for every question they asked, they burned my back with a cigarette.… I had more than 111 cigarette burns on my body. And that was just my back. That did not include my chest. So I know that more than 111 questions were asked of me. That was just the beginning."

Sister Ortiz said she was lowered into a pit filled with decapitated bodies and rats, and that her captors gave her a machete and forced her to plunge it into the body of her cell mate, a woman she had befriended in the darkness.

"I carry a lot of guilt with me, to this day, for my inability to help others in need, my inability … to help the woman who was in the prison cell with me. Sometimes I can be really hard on myself," Sister Ortiz admitted.

After 24 hours, she was inexplicably released, but she is reminded of her ordeal every day.

"I carried so much anger. And it paralyzed me. And it made me feel like I could not trust in others," she said. "And losing trust in humanity is … death. It's hell."

The Hell of the Holocaust

We've all seen the horrifying images of the Holocaust. The National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University provided some of those images from the documentary film "Death Mills" for our story. They are images of prisoners who have lived in hell at the hands of man, and Elie Wiesel was one of them. He was a teenager when his family was taken by the Nazis and loaded into a train car.

"We had no idea where we were going. The word 'Auschwitz' never meant anything to us," Wiesel recalled. "The long barbed wire was infinite. The lines going somewhere, but we still didn't know where."

Wiesel said he is still haunted by the image he saw upon arrival -- flames from the chimneys and the bodies of children being thrown into the fire.

When asked how he kept from losing his mind, Wiesel replied, "That's a question that I ask myself to this day. But perhaps I did … without knowing it."

Wiesel said he never knew what happened to the concentration camp guards who murdered his parents.

"I hope that if there is an afterlife, that they are … before the celestial tribunal … having to answer for their deeds every day of eternity."

'You Can Escape Hell'

Ishmael Beah, Sister Dianna Ortiz and Elie Wiesel still wrestle with their traumatic experiences, yet they all believe that something meaningful and pure and good can come of their ordeals.

Beah was ultimately rescued by United Nations workers, rehabilitated and adopted by an American woman. He earned a degree in political science, wrote a gripping account of his life titled "A Long Way Gone," and now crusades against the exploitation of children in war.

"I celebrate every moment. Waking up in the morning, not having to run, not waking up to gunshots -- it's enough for me," Beah said.

"You can truly escape hell," he said. "The way I think you escape that word is to … transform that experience into something positive so that you can use it for the benefit of others."

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