MARION, Montana - Not far from the mountains where she grew up, Sara re-discovered what she'd loved about her childhood. The simple things.
"I missed the mountains terribly," she said. "I've always loved the horses."
For her, it was riding horses again, which she gets to do again on a ranch she shares with her son and husband Marc in Montana.
"Montana always just kind of had this ring - this romantic ring to it," she said.
It's a sanctuary built around healing.
"My latest blessing from God, as I like to call it, is Rooster-Free Spirit or Spirit," she said. "He's a huge blessing and he's been very therapeutic."
It's a new beginning.
"The free spirit is just representative of where I've come," she continued.
Sara knows something about getting back up on the horse. What's kept her up, kept her going, is her faith.
"When God says he could so much more than you could ever ask or think, he's not kidding. And that's what he's doing now"
It was faith that she could stay strong, despite everything that happened.
"I like to say 'We all have a story and we all have a Ruby Ridge in our lives.".
Ruby Ridge. It had become Sara's cross to bear.
20 years ago, Ruby Ridge was Sara's childhood home. Her parents, Randy and Vicki moved the family to the remote cabin in the mountains of northern Idaho, known as Ruby Ridge. Sara was the oldest of four children followed by Sammy, Rachel, and Elisheba - the last of whom was born on the mountain.
The cabin was also home to family friend Kevin Harris. Together, they lived a humble life. The home had no running water or electricity. The family tended a garden, picked huckleberries, fished and hunted. The Weaver children were home schooled.
"Growing up that way, which was unconventional, was still an awesome, awesome experience. I feel like I had a really great childhood," she said.
Sara's parents were deeply religious, white separatists. Randy was a former Green Beret and the cabin he built was an armed retreat from a world he and Vicki believed was not only corrupt, but imminently nearing Apocalypse.
In 1992, the Weaver's worst fears came true.
"They were horrific, awful, terrible days," she recalled.
The federal government, specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, first became aware of Weaver in July 1986 when he was introduced to an ATF informant at a meeting of the Aryan Nations. Over the next three years, Weaver and the informant met several times. In October 1989, the ATF claimed that Weaver sold the informant two sawed-off shotguns. Randy maintains that was a set up.
He was arrested and released but never showed up to his court hearing. Randy then became a fugitive of justice. The case was handed over to the U.S. Marshal's and that's what sparked a plan to arrest Randy at his remote cabin.
Fearing a firefight because the Weaver cabin was heavily armed, federal agents set up surveillance around the cabin. They watched the family for months undetected. Until the morning of August 21, 1992. On that day, a team of U.S. Marshals were scouting the forest to find suitable places to ambush and arrest Randy.
While on the mountain, the Weaver's dog, Striker, started barking and ran down the mountain toward the agents. Sammy, 14, Randy, and Kevin Harris grabbed their guns and set out after Striker thinking the dog was possibly after an animal.
A firefight broke out killing Sammy, Deputy U.S. Marshal William Francis Degan, and the family dog. Randy and Kevin retreated to the cabin and the standoff began.
The federal government, acting under the belief that their men were pinned down, unleashed an astonishing display of manpower. In helicopters and armored vehicles, 400 men and women from the FBI, AFT, US Marshals ad a half a dozen other agencies converged on northern Idaho. The feds set up base camp about a mile from the Weaver's cabin, which they called Federal Way.
At the time, FBI agent-in-charge Gene Glenn said "No stone will be left unturned."
As military hardware built up, so did the tension. Supporters and protestors swarmed to the roadblock at Ruby Creek.
On the second day of the standoff, sniper teams were sent to the mountain with special rules of engagement: shoot at any armed adult. It was an extraordinary deviation from the norm.
That day, while Randy was near the shed where his son's boy lay, a sniper shot and wounded him. As he ran to the house, Vicki stood near the doorway of the cabin holding her infant daughter Elisheba. That's when the sniper fired a second bullet, striking Vicki in the head. The baby was unharmed but Vicki was killed instantly. The same bullet passed through her body and struck Kevin, severely wounding him.
Distraught, the remaining members of the Weaver family hunkered down inside the cabin for nine more days. During those nine days, Sara Weaver crawled around her mother's blanket-covered body to get food and water for the survivors, including the infant.
Eleven days after the siege began, a little known presidential candidate and former Green Beret Bo Gritz convinced the Weavers to surrender. At the time, Gritz explained that Randy "Needed someone who he could trust because we had a common brotherhood in special forces."
In the days that followed, Randy Weaver and Harris were arrested. The Weaver's daughters went to live with relatives in Iowa. Following a trial, Randy was acquitted of all charges but the original firearms violations. Harris was acquitted of all charges. The surviving members of the Weaver family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. IN 1995, the federal government awarded Randy Weaver a $100,000 settlement and his three daughters $1 million each.
The siege ultimately led to one of the most controversial and debated investigations in Idaho history. Ruby Ridge also helped spark an anti-government movement. Even timothy McVeigh cited ruby ridge as one of the reasons for the Oklahoma City Bombing.
SARA'S STORY: FINDING FORGIVENESS
After the siege, Randy and Kevin Harris were arrested and jailed. Sara and her sisters moved in with relatives in Iowa. She mourned the family she lost.
"Sam, he was my best friend. he was always up for an adventure," Sara continued. "He looked up to me as his big sister."
Sara described her mom as passionate, strong, talented, kind and loving.
"Those are things I am grateful for, looking back now. I'm glad I had that time with my mom, I'm glad I had that time with my brother because I didn't get to keep them long enough.
In the next decade, Sara got married, had a son, got divorced. She spent most of that time in a deep depression.
"Looking back, I had postpartum depression on top of post traumatic stress that I was carrying from Ruby Ridge that had never been dealt with."
A Turning point came 10 years after Ruby Ridge. By then she'd remarried and moved to Montana. There, her friend suggested strength in faith. Inspired, Sara sought out her old Bible and flipped to one verse she remembered as a child: John 3:16.
The verse reads: "It was, for God so love the world, he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life."
In that moment, Sara said, she knew Jesus' love for the first time. The weight of the world fell off of her shoulders. With faith and time, Sara was able to move past the pain and find freedom in forgiveness.
"What god had done in my life was set me free from all of that negative emotion."
She was even able to forgive those who had done the unthinkable at Ruby Ridge.
"The government is made up of individual people like you and me. Some make good decisions and some make not so good ones," she explained. "It still hurts and I think it will always hurt but, the difference is, God's given me the grace to work through those things."
Every once in a while, Sara goes back to Ruby Ridge. Past the creek, up the mountain, and into the meadow. The only remaining pieces of her old home are the floorboards. But Ruby Ridge offers new meaning now.
"For me it just represents coming from that place in your life that was most difficult to the other side of it and finding freedom."
It took a long time for her to get past Ruby Ridge. But look at her now. Sara Weaver is back in the saddle.
"For so many years I lived with the sadness of it ... and now there's something good coming out of it, and I'm just soaking that in and enjoying every minute of it."
Sara just published a book about her life called From Ruby Ridge to Freedom. To find out more about Weaver's book, head to her website.
KHQ teamed up with our partners at the paper, the Spokesman-Review. For more articles, a photo gallery, and an annotated timeline, head to their website.
Sara Weaver's Website:
Spokesman-Review Article About Ruby Ridge:
Spokesman-Review Timeline of Ruby Ridge: