Important: Everything Is Stories is created specifically for listening and is best experienced audibly. If you have the means, we highly recommend listening to the audio version. It captures the emotions and emphasis that cannot be conveyed on the written page. Transcripts are produced using a mix of speech recognition software and human transcribers, so there may be some errors. It is advised to refer to the accompanying audio for accurate quotes when using this content in print.
SULOME: Well, I was supposed to be named Daniel or Danielle when they found out that my mom was pregnant. But just a month after she found out, she says she had a dream. And the dream went like this. She was walking through a desert and she came to a big black stone building. It looked like a church, but immediately when she saw it, she knew it wasn’t a church. So she went to the back of the building and there was a graveyard. And she came to the first tombstone and it said in big letters, Sulome, and in small letters, Anderson.
And she says she put her hand on the grave and felt like this woman was in some way significant or important. Then she looked to see the birth and the death date, but everything went blurry because my dad was waking her up to go to his tennis game. The first thing she said to him was, we’re gonna have a daughter and her name’s gonna be Sulome. After my mom had the dream, my parents did a lot of research on it. I mean, the closest thing that we could find was Salome. Which is that slutty chick in the Bible that wanted John the Baptist’s head on a platter. But there was another Salome who went to Jesus’ grave with Mary Magdalene. Apparently in Aramaic, the U and the A were interchangeable, so it’s quite possible that it could have been Sulome. Besides that, there’s really no nothing else that we could find.
My entire life, my mom has been like telling me the same story about how my parents met. I’m trying to think which version of the story to tell. Because I recently found out that– I don’t think it really matters. I don’t think my parents will hear this, but all right. You know what? I’m just gonna, gonna tell it. They were at a party at Robert Fisk’s house. He’s obviously like a legendary journalist now. Her version of the story is they locked eyes across the room. My dad became infatuated. He asked her out like three times and each time she said no, cuz he wasn’t her type. But on the third time she said yes just to get him off her back. And then they went out and he charmed her and they fell in love.
Recently I was like just chilling, drinking with my dad and he said to me. Sulome, it’s not that the story’s not true. Everything happened. Like we did lock eyes at a party. I did ask her out three times, but. We locked eyes at a party over a glass table of cocaine. My mom’s Lebanese, her family is about half Maronite Christian and half Sunni Muslim. And my dad comes from a pretty poor family in upstate New York. I mean, I was the child of war journalists and they were both covering the Lebanese Civil War.
AUDIO CLIP: The country’s political system was distraught. Lebanon lost its independence. It became the prey of invading armies from Syria and Israel.
SULOME: I never did not know what war was. It bleeds into your life and the lives of the people around you. That was the case for my parents and their friends. They– it’s all pretty much, they talked about. A four or five year old is not supposed to know that people can kidnap you and hold you against your will for no reason really. They’re not supposed to know that you could get hit by a bomb. That’s something most children should be protected from. All children should be protected from. My mother was fixing for ABC news. Basically someone who works with a journalist and they translate, drive, and have contacts. My dad was the Associated Press Middle East Bureau Chief.
So he was pretty much at the top of his field as far as war correspondence go. So in the eighties, Westerners in Beirut, and all over Lebanon, but Beirut mostly were starting to be kidnapped by, mainly by one group, but then other groups, it was almost like a copycat type thing. Like other groups would get involved and kidnap people for their own reasons. Even now, the political stuff is really hard to understand in terms of their motivations. Part of what they wanted was Israel out of Lebanon.
AUDIO CLIP: Aggressive campaigns against Israel and her Christian allies who had traditionally dominated that country.
SULOME: Israel was occupying Lebanon, and this invasion was particularly brutal.
AUDIO CLIP: The Israeli response was a blizzard of machine gun fire into the almost empty streets.
SULOME: America was supporting Israel militarily and politically as they continue to do this day.
AUDIO CLIP: I have personally followed and supported Israel’s heroic struggle for survival ever since the founding of the state of Israel 34 years ago.
SULOME: A lot of what they wanted was revenge for what was being done to their country.
AUDIO CLIP: In Beirut, Lebanon today, a pickup truck loaded with explosives drove to the American Embassy. And there was a tremendous explosion there during the lunch. We told that more than 40 people are dead between 80 and wounded– Americans…
SULOME: I think there was 91 westerners taken hostage during that time period. And my father was the longest held. I always knew that my father was being held against his will by bad men. I mean, I was only a child and I couldn’t understand any of the politics, and I just knew that he loved us and he was gonna come back as soon as possible. That’s just the script that I grew up with. I mean, my mom did not sit there and try to explain the political machinations behind this event. Because I would ask Mommy, when is daddy coming home? She’d say, soon. I would ask all the time.
My dad was going to a tennis game with his best friend. My dad also made a mistake of not changing up his routine and doing the same things every day, which is a huge mistake. And they were leaving the tennis game and a car pulled up in front of them. One of them put a gun to my dad’s best friend’s head. And the other one had a Kalashnikov, and he was just like guarding, making sure nobody interfered. And then a big guy like dragged my dad out of the car and threw him into their car in the back of their car. And he wasn’t released until almost seven years later.
AUDIO CLIP: American Hostage journalist Terry Anderson, Press Middle East correspondent has been missing since March. Held hostage by Lebanese Radicals, AP photographer, Donald Mill, saw it happen. I tried to advance towards one of the gunmen. He waved his pistol at me as if to go away.
SULOME: He became the most publicized, therefore, the most valuable. I always had a picture of him that I kept under my pillow and kissed it every night before I went to bed. But it’s a picture of him when he was healthy. Kind of round and a little chubby, a big smile on his face. And I remember thinking he looked really kind. That was probably the first image of him I had in my mind.
But then sometimes my mom would let me watch the end of hostage videos that his kidnappers would send out. I remember him looking emaciated in them, like a total skeleton. I could see that he was suffering. At the end, he would tell my mom and I that he loved us. So I had these two different images of my dad in my head, it was confusing.
We were being taken care of by the Associated Press. They would split my dad’s salary and give half to his other family because my dad was in the process of getting a divorce with his first wife. I grew up in Cyprus off the coast of Greece, close enough to Beirut so that we could have news of my dad. When we’d go to Lebanon, cause we’d go during lulls in the war. But lulls in the war, were still active, conflict zones. Bombs would be falling sometimes, and like you’d hear (gun sounds) of guns. Every time I would go to Lebanon, I would think, you know, my daddy’s here somewhere. Maybe he’s around the corner. My mom would always tell me not to speak English.
She would insist that I spoke Arabic because she was worried that they would take me. It was like having a bogeyman constantly hanging over your head. I was a really imaginative kid. I would always like pick up the phone, pretend to talk to him and send him letters and stuff. Everybody around me was telling me he was a hero. I grew up thinking he was gonna be a superhero. Just like the best idea of a father you could possibly have. I really managed to create this very vivid character of my father, and obviously it was, you know, fantasy. I recently saw a newspaper clipping from when I was two years old.
And I said something, I think it was something like, Daddy come home, our hearts are broken. And I remember my mom sitting me down and saying, look, there’s a chance that your father is not coming home. And I remember being devastated. Something that I’ve mixed feelings about that she did was she would wrap presents and send them to the house with notes from my dad. And it was in her handwriting, obviously, and I remember figuring that out. At some point. I was like, mom, this is, this looks like you’re handwriting. And she just was like, no, no, it’s your dad. Obviously, she meant really well. She wanted to keep a connection between my father and I.
She wanted me to feel connected to him. So when I was a little over five years old, Brian Keenan, who was held with my father, he was released. And he had spent about five years at that point in prison. Well, he was like the scrappy Irish guy. Talked back and did all this stuff and they would really beat the shit out of him.
By the time he came home. I mean, he was in rough shape. At the time, I remember seeing him and he was like yellow. And he looked like a skeleton and he was shaking really hard. And he tried to put sugar in his tea and he spilled it all over the table cause he was shaking too hard. Did not know how to handle that. And my mom took me upstairs and she said, what’s wrong? And I said, is Mr. Keenan very sick? And she said, yeah, he’s sick, but he’s gonna get better. And I said, is daddy very sick? And she said, yeah, daddy’s sick, but we’re gonna help him get better. The narrative that sort of coalesced over the years is that Hezbollah was responsible for all the terrorism. It was more complicated than that.
Basically, the Islamic Jihad organization, which was the group that kidnapped my dad and did all the bombings. All the terrorism, pretty much. They were formed at the, around the same time that Hezbollah was starting to become like an organization that got together and would fight the Israelis. At this point, the hostages had become a huge liability to Iran and to Hezbollah, which according to my reporting, had at that point taken over the Islamic Jihad. Which is the group that was doing all the terrorism.
So they acquired the hostages. Iran wanted to mend ties with the west at this point. So did Syria. Hezbollah is an Iranian operation, so that was around the time they decided to get rid of all the hostages. And my dad was the last one cuz he was the most valuable. He was in his cell listening to the radio, and I guess they had been gradually more and more lax with him. Like I don’t think they were chaining him as much. He heard on the radio that he had been released while he was in the cell.
AUDIO CLIP: Freedom At last for Terry Anderson, the Associated Press correspondent held hostage in Lebanon released after nearly seven years in captivity.
SULOME: They drove him blindfolded through somewhere in Beirut. They basically just told him to get outta the car and one of his captors handed him a bouquet of pink carnations to give my mother. Which is so fucking bizarre. It’s a really interesting window into their minds. When they drove off, he like threw away the bouquet, obviously, and then took off his blindfold. Syrian soldiers came to pick him up and take him to Damascus, which is where we met. I fell asleep on a couch at the American Embassy.
My dad woke me up. He’s like, hi, I’m your father. I remember being confused because he didn’t look like the picture I had. And he didn’t look like the hostage videos. He seemed pretty healthy actually, um, seemed. He talked about seeing me for the first time on television and what it meant to him and how like, I kept him going and my mom and I just drove him through those seven years. He took me by the hand and he took my mother by the hand, and we walked out of the embassy into just zoo.
AUDIO CLIP: I’ve been just stunned, overwhelmed in the last two days by the welcome.
SULOME: One of my clearest memories is seeing my father. He had this big smile on his face. But I remember him like flinching from the lights and the noise, and like his hand was shaking a little in mine. Seeing him hide it with a smile.
AUDIO CLIP: Excuse me, I’m, I’m joking.
SULOME: I remember being like half really happy and half terrified.
AUDIO CLIP: There’s so many people.
SULOME: That was how we met. We flew to to Wiesbaden. Wiesbaden in Germany is where they have a hospital for ex hostages. For people who had been released from captivity. I had to see therapists. I remember doctors watching me and watching us interact. And feeling like was a lot of that in it. We were forced.
AUDIO CLIP: I tend to be a little, shall we be polite and forceful.
SULOME: You know, when you take a puzzle piece and force it in when it doesn’t belong. I remember feeling that way.
AUDIO CLIP: I think I’ve learned some things about myself and about others. I can’t tell you what I’m going to be from here on out.
SULOME: He would hug me and stuff, but it didn’t feel real. It felt forced.
SAMPLE: What happened?
SULOME: It was fake.
SAMPLE: I don’t know, and I don’t want to think about it right now. There were reports that, that, to the extent of.
SULOME: And the worst part was that he was insisting to everyone and himself that he was fine. And he seemed fine. He fooled even the therapist into thinking he was fine. He was quick to anger. He could be really dismissive and disconnected
AUDIO CLIP: Everyday life is very pleasurable most of the time. And enjoy ourselves. Just do…
SULOME: And that was kind of scary for me cause I’d never really had a man behave like that in front of me. My dad became really jealous of me because my mom and I were so close. He wanted to get close to my mom. I think he felt he wasn’t a part of it. He felt excluded from our relationship.
AUDIO CLIP: And sure, we argue a good knockdown drag out and then we go on. I mean, the everyday things I say I think was a…
SULOME: My parents never sat me down and explained to me what had happened. I didn’t know those particulars until I read my dad’s book. They tried to keep me away from it, but I got my hands on it and read it. So that’s how I learned exactly what had happened to him. Images from the book seared into my mind now. I’ll, they’ll never leave me like they would wrap him in duct tape from head to toe with only his nose sticking out and throw him in a compartment under a truck to move him from from place to place.
He was always confined and restrained. From a very early age that became really upsetting to me. The CIA station chief in Beirut had been kidnapped by the same people, and his name was William Buckley. They tortured him so badly that he lost his mind. He died in the same room as my father. My dad remembers cause his breathing stopped. And something that I’ll never forget was this part where he was dying in the same room as my dad and he was talking to himself. Pretty much insane at that point. He kept saying, my body is given out on me. I’ve lasted this long, but my body is betraying me.
And I remember just crying so hard because I felt so bad for this man. That anybody could be completely removed from who they are. My dad was very good at detaching from his feelings. I think that’s actually part of why he wasn’t completely destroyed. Everything felt like a lie to me. Supposed to say that I was really happy to have my daddy home. And I would just cry at night and pray for them to take my dad back. He had didn’t have the tools to be like a good dad. He had no idea what he was doing basically.
And plus what happened to him. I mean, it really made him emotionally unavailable to the very extreme circumstance. I was trying to get something from him that I wasn’t able to get and resign myself to the fact that I was never gonna get it from him. I just sort of thought, okay, well, I should stop trying bond with this man because he’s not capable of it. I don’t think I ever did get to know my dad, or at least not for many, many years.
We moved to Ohio, like where Ohio University is, and it’s called Athens. And my dad started teaching, taught journalism. That was when I started to become deeply depressed and act out a lot and rebel. Partly because my parents and I were at each other’s throats at that point. To be fair, I was a stubborn kid and I was pissed off. I knew exactly how to push their buttons, both of them. And I did it all the time.
That’s when I started figuring out that drugs, in general made, me feel a lot better. Remember like the first time I drank eighth grade year feeling like, oh wow, that makes me feel better. I was desperately insecure. I desperately wanted to fit in and have friends, and I think I tried. Too hard. I would like ransack my parents’ medicine cabinet and find whatever I could get. That was when I started to really lose it when it came to drugs.
First time I did Oxycontin was in high school. My dad had gotten kicked in the face by a horse, seriously. And he had to get most of it rebuilt with plastic surgery. So he had quite a bit of Oxycontin. And at this point I think I was like 16. Man, I was just, oh my God, it was just like being home and safe sense that nothing can possibly hurt you. That everything is gonna be okay. You just take a mental break.
And I was already in quite a bit of mental pain, mired in self-hatred and all that stuff. I started doing a lot of coke, ecstasy, like pretty much anything I could find. I hated being in my head. Being sober meant that I hated myself. Being sober meant I wanted to die. By the time I graduated high school, I think my parents had given up. Just given up trying to control me. It was just impossible. So they would fight all the time.
At this point, I was barely getting along with either one of them. Second, I left for college they split up. Didn’t make sense for them to be together. I moved to New York to go to NYU Drama School at Tisch. And New York is a really exciting place to be 18. That point, I was full into a drug problem. Became worse and worse. Could barely hold it together at this point, I was high every day. I wanted to be an actress, so I tried doing like a couple of plays, things like that, but I was losing interest in acting.
Be on too high of a dose of something and I gained a lot of weight and be really sluggish. To counteract that, I would do a lot of amphetamines. These crazy highs and lows. Like I would be like just flying for like a week or two and then I’d crash. I went to Europe for a summer. Babysat for a while. I had no job. I had no purpose. Apart from getting high. My senior year of college I checked myself into the Soho Grand. Asked the doorman where I could get some blow. Spent two or three days in the hotel room, just railing lines and taking Xanax to sleep.
And my dad flew from Ohio pounding on the door, and he got the concierge to let him in. I was like passed out on the bed just with baggies everywhere and prescription bottles and just really in a state. He dumped a bucket of cold water on me and sat on the bed, and then with his head in his hands and started crying. I remember being really surprised, like I didn’t even know he cared that much. I was really dope sick for like a week, and I didn’t wanna forget what it felt like so that I wouldn’t do it again.
At this point, I started really thinking about what I wanted to do for my future and fulfilling that potential. People would ask me all the time if I wanted to be a reporter, and I’d say no way. Partly because of what happened to my dad. Partly because I grew up around reporters and they’re all deeply fucked up. My personality is uniquely suited for journalism. I gravitated towards it. I knew how to write. Knew the business inside and out. Always watched the news. I also am an obsessive researcher. It was all I thought about.
I always held onto my connection in the Middle East. Lebanon has changed a lot. I’ve been going there my whole life for months out of the year. So much culture. I mean, there’s Roman ruins, beautiful mountains, skiing, beaches. It’s really cosmopolitan. There’s a great night life. There’s like a gay scene. Very different from what you would expect. Since the Syrian Civil War started, it’s been varying stages of dysfunction. It’s just gotten really bad. There have been a bunch of suicide bombs. Like 2012 was bad.
The crazy thing about Lebanon is that all the history is still there. It’s all right there at the surface. All the same people are still there from the war. Glimpses of my family’s story just in the history. We would go along and see like, oh, well, there was where, you know, a huge gun battle happened in the war. That was where that building got blown up and my dad covered that. That’s a part of my history. I was a feature writer at The Daily Star, which is like an English language newspaper in Beirut.
And it’s basically the stepping stone for working in Beirut. Anybody who wants to get into the Lebanese journalism scene and needs a paying gig will work at The Daily Star. They’re the only English language publication of note that covers Beirut. At first, I did stories on like transgender people and child beggars. People who are going through troubles in their lives.
Most people get into journalism in the Middle East, that way through human interest stories. But then I started doing more dangerous stuff, like I went to Roumieh, which is the most dangerous prison in Lebanon, and I interviewed like criminally insane people. So the prison is this place where basically the guards like have no control over the population. The prisoners would hold the guards hostage and bribe the guards and walk out of the prison. These were bad people, these were terrorists, horrible people.
It’s like something out of a movie, like it’s like this big stone building and there are just clothes hanging from all the cell windows. Dirty, smelly clothes. It smells like just human waste. It’s so foreboding. These prisoners just had the run of the place, and the head of this hierarchy were the Islamist prisoners. Islamist prisoners had TVs and microwaves and air conditioning. They were getting all this stuff from Saudis. People in the Gulf. They were sponsoring these people.
I was walking through the courtyard and at this point they were all awake and they were all walking around. They weren’t restrained at all, and it was just me and a bunch of prisoners. Felt everybody staring at me. Just made my exit as fast as possible. You can’t be so terrified that you can’t do your job, but you also have to have a healthy sense of apprehension and fear when you go into those situations. Otherwise, you’re really just stupid. So fixers are basically like coordinators, translators, drivers. They have the connections. They’ll take you into a place, introduce you to people who will let you interview them. And so the better connected a fixer is, the more valuable he is My. Fixer was very well connected with Hezbollah. I mean, he got me stories nobody could get me. He introduced me to the man who kidnapped my father.
So I’m Lebanese, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Lebanon. Hezbollah is not a terrorist group anymore as far as I’m concerned, and as far as many other people are concerned. Including an FBI agent did tell me that, off the record. I’ve had an ex-CIA agent tell me that, off the record. They just don’t consider them terrorists anymore. People have to understand that they are a huge political party. They’re the most powerful force in Lebanon. A militia, which is more powerful by far, than the Lebanese army. Politically, they are the most powerful movement in Lebanon.
AUDIO CLIP: We do first recognize that Hezbollah has a number of different dimensions to it as a political party, as a social welfare organization. But the United States continues to be concerned about terrorist activities.
SULOME: I started researching my dad’s story. I investigated Iran Contra.
AUDIO CLIP: The Iran Contra hearings to investigate the sale of US weapons to Iran and the illegal diversion of money to the Contras.
SULOME: The Israelis came to a couple of people in the Reagan administration and said, if you give us weapons, we’ll trade them with Iran and they’ll let the hostages go. The US was giving the Israelis like brand new nice weapons, and the Israelis were giving the Iranians like really shit bootleg weapons. And the Iranians were like, hey, we want the real weapons. Americans were like, we want all the hostages. And it just went horribly awry.
AUDIO CLIP: Our government has a firm policy not to capitulate, to terrorist demands.
SULOME: Reagan had always made a big stink about never negotiating with terrorists ever, and he was caught with his pants down doing exactly that. And failing at it. When I started interviewing people who knew the kidnappers, I came up with this formula for these interviews. I would be very vague about why I wanted the interview. Just say I’m writing a book about the war. They didn’t have any idea what I was actually reporting on. So I would ask them warmup questions, and then I’d just like drop it on them.
I Sulome Anderson Terry Anderson’s daughter, the hostages daughter. Terry Anderson. The ex hostage. The hostages daughter. Okay. Well, I’m Terry Anderson’s daughter, like the hostages daughter. The hostages daughter. The hostages daughter. And it always got results. They knew who my dad was. I mean, it’s the look I always get from people in Hezbollah or Shia in Beirut or Lebanon. They just kinda look at me like, what are you doing here? I had interviewed several people in (name) connected to Hezbollah. Hezbollah members who were around at the time.
One guy, he’s the most prolific airplane hijacker in history. That guy was like, I know exactly where all of your father’s kidnappers are. They’re all in hiding. And I was like, well, they talk to me. I really wanna talk to them. And he said, no way. And I heard that as well from my fixer, just that there’s not a chance. For one of the stories, it was right when the Israelis took out a Hezbollah convoy. And then Hezbollah took out an Israeli convoy on the border. And for a few days it looked like there was gonna be another war. Very tense time. I just set up a trip to South Lebanon in Jnoub. So you know it’s Hezbollah country.
There’s posters of martyrs everywhere. Hezbollah loves their martyrs. Whenever somebody dies in combat, they make posters of him and put them up. One of the guys I interviewed there is a Hezbollah official. I didn’t know who he was. He didn’t know who. I was totally randomly. I came on him totally randomly. I just wanted a comment from someone ranking in Hezbollah. And at the end of one of my interviews, my fixer said to him, you’ll never guess who her father is. This man just went completely white, his face actually drained of blood. He was like, why didn’t you warn me to my fixer? And he was like, why would I have warned you? He looked at me and he said, in Arabic, I’m ashamed. And then he said, I wanna introduce you to someone. Next time you come, I’ll introduce you.
PRODUCER: Tell us like what the visits are like.
SULOME: I have to be really careful about what I say about that. I don’t really wanna say too much about him. He kept saying, next time, next time. At this point, I’d hung out with him many times. I like played with his kids. We just would sit in his living room and talk. He had been saying stuff like, when you find out who he is, your hair is gonna go gray. But I just figured it was like a well known politician or something like that. The end of one of the times we went to visit him, my fixer sort of hung back, try and convince him to let us meet this guy. And then my fixer came out looking like someone punched him in the face.
I was like, what’s wrong with, he was like, just get in the car. And we waved goodbye, and he’s just looked at me and he said it was him. He was one of the guys who kidnapped your dad. Felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. I just was completely flabbergasted. We set up another meeting with him. He immediately started justifying what he had done. First just used this attack by this American battleship that killed a lot of Shia and some of his friends and family. The occupation, American support of the Israelis, all this stuff. He was 17. His country was being destroyed by war. It was chaos.
He thought they had no other choice. But then I could see he’d have these cracks and this incredible shame would pour out. At one point he said I wish I could go back in time and put you in your father’s arms myself. He’d always say, give my regards to your father. Tell him I’m sorry.
What I came to understand was that he felt great shame. Wanted me to forgive him. He wanted to be absolved. The stakes involved with this man talking to me were very high. He is still wanted for involvement in the kidnappings and the bombings. There’s significant bounty on their heads with the FBI still. I never worried about him placating me. He’s not that sort of man. Tough as nails, Hezbollah, militant, armed to the teeth. What he would do was open up and tell me things, freak out, think I’m a spy, or that I was gonna turn him in for the reward money and just disappear.
Stop answering phone calls. I never felt unsafe with him except for one time when he pointed the gun at me. And that was the only time that I ever really thought, oh my God, this guy could actually hurt me. He had been dodging me for a while, so we drove to see him. He wasn’t home. He said, well, I’m a few towns over. So we drove around trying to find this town, it was the boonies. And we got there and we pulled up in front of a bunker. It was fortified. Hidden military vehicles everywhere. This was a serious Hezbollah Bunker.
I guess what had been happening was he had been talking to the two other people involved. And they had been telling him that he was insane to be talking to me. And that I was gonna turn him in. And he comes outta the building with a gun. Came up to the passenger side of the car, and motioned for me to roll down the car window. And he just pointed the gun pretty close to my face and just went pow, just mimed it. I didn’t even really think, I just sort of laughed. And gestured, can I see it? And he gave it to me like he’d let me take it out of his hand and I just pointed it back at him and I went, pow. And he started cracking up. In that moment, he realized like, okay, no, this is okay.
I think if I had been hiding something, I would’ve been shitting myself, but I wasn’t. You have to look at the context of someone’s life and how they got to where they are. And I think that’s missing from so much of our commentary on terrorism. Even just the way we discuss it is this idea that terrorists just pop out out of nowhere. They just materialize one day and wanna kill Americans.
Like it doesn’t work like that. He is not an animal causing destruction for the sake of it. He’s not a saint, he’s still a militant. But overall he has a sense of honor and a code. That doesn’t excuse what he did. But it does put it into context a little bit. So it was very hard for me cuz I would vacillate between being very angry. And then being against my will, empathizing with him.
This man was a person to me at that point, which is not an easy thing to wrap your mind around. He told me that he had a picture of my father that he took. He told me that he was gonna give it to me and he kept promising me. He kept promising me. He would look in my eyes and tell me, I swear I’m gonna make this happen. And he’s the kind of guy who like really takes– I mean, it’s an honor thing. Like they take it seriously when they swear. I never got the picture, but I really tried hard. It was this very confusing sort of clash between his need to justify what he had done and his very human regret and shame at his action. It was confusing for me.
I mean, it was total mind fuck. I’m sitting here going, I really, really wanna hate you, but like, I’ve actually spent a lot of time with you at this point and I know you’re not evil. It was a gradual process through which that I came to forgive him. Kind of happened without my realizing it. I kept trying to hate him and failing, and then at the end I just realized he wants me to forgive him. And like, I will, because why hold on.
At the end, I finally understood how it could happen, how somebody could get to the point where they participated in that kind of thing. Didn’t sympathize with it, but I did empathize with it. By the time my dad started reaching out to me and making more of an effort to be in my life. We had already started to build a bridge because of my job. We’d talk about stuff that was happening in Lebanon.
He was really supportive of my work. Like I would call him and ask him about stories. I’d ask his advice, if he had anything to say to this guy, and he would say, no, I just wanna move on. He’s been Terry Anderson the ex hostage most of his life now, and I think he was just over it. I never told my father that he sent his regards. I thought it would be insulting. I kind of realized, okay, he is not gonna hurt me again. But it took me a while to believe that. Wasn’t angry anymore. I was starting to understand.
Recently this woman sent me a message on Facebook like about a year ago. It said, my mom just died and she kept a scrapbook of your father every day while he was gone, every newspaper article, she could find everything, and I wanna send it to you. And that’s how people followed this story. I think every journalist in this line of work will tell you that it’s a crapshoot. You are as calculated as possible with the risks you take, and I don’t take as many risks as some people I know.
Probably because of what happened to my dad but there’s always that chance that something could go horribly, horribly wrong. When it comes to myself like– I don’t know. It’s very weird and confusing. Like I’m not– I’m not really, this is the crazy thing. I’m not really afraid to die. Probably cuz I wanted to die for a long time. But I am afraid of being kidnapped and tortured, very deathly afraid of that. That’s the worst case scenario in my opinion. Definitely factor that into my calculations. As well as the fact that I would make a pretty valuable hostage.