Terry Anderson: Freed Hostage


Terry Anderson: Freed Hostage


Terry Anderson, who grew up in Batavia, New York, was abducted by Hezbollah militants in Beirut, Lebanon on March 16, 1985. He was serving as the Associated Press’ chief Middle East correspondent at the time he was taken hostage.

Anderson was held for six years and nine months, the longest of a group of Americans taken hostage at the time. The abductions were an attempt to drive U.S. military forces from Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war. Anderson was released on December 4, 1991.

From the time of his abduction, his sister Peggy Say worked tirelessly for his release. Her efforts were covered extensively by the Buffalo news media and often made national and world headlines. She was perhaps the most covered of all the hostages’ relatives.

On December 4, 1991, Terry Anderson was finally released by his captors. His 2,455 days as a prisoner included about a year and a half in solitary confinement. WIVB-TV anchor, the late Bob Koop, traveled to Wiesbaden, Germany for Anderson’s first meeting with the press. His report includes Peggy Say’s joyful embrace of her brother, one of the most moving moments of his newly found freedom.

This series of reports begins with a CNN recap of Anderson’s ordeal and later life activities. A sequence of reports follows, beginning with the time leading up to his release, his reunion with his sister, first statements as a free man, reaction in Batavia, and finally, Anderson’s return to Batavia in 2011 while on a “mission of peace.”


1985 - 2011


Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (publisher of digital)


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Terry Anderson, a journalist living in Beirut was abducted by the Islamic Jihad. They pushed Terry into the back of this green Mercedes and sped off.

Anderson was the longest held of more than a dozen Western hostages in Lebanon.

After nearly seven years in captivity in Beirut.

He was a reporter who became part of the story he covered.

I spent a year and a half solitary all together. It was the most difficult experience in my life. I almost went insane. Being held hostage and not being able to talk I discovered that I need people because we didn't know if we're gonna live

1985 to 1991. I and others spent those years in damp, dirty basements and small cells. I find it difficult to keep my hopes and my courage high

The last American to be free and sort of arrived with joyous welcome. Harry Anderson's exit marks the end of the American hostage ordeal in Lebanon.

All of us had a lot of problems. One of them went into a mental hospital and never got out before he died. I no one that looked at his family and said I like anymore and went up in the mountains became a hermit until he died of cancer. We were all damaged in a lot of different ways. And my problem was I sounded good. And I convinced myself and everybody else and I wasn't. I've been married three times and divorced three times. But you know you asked me if I changed. I'll tell you. My answer to that is I don't know. Ask my ex wives. Am I a jerk because I'm a jerk or because I was a hostage? I can't tell anymore.

I was very happy to get out but this was my homecoming. This is where my people are

That was a great celebration when I came up. We were having a bad time in America. I kind of symbolized something good. I believed in what I was doing, and I still do. But I started teaching I didn't have any idea what I thought I know this stuff. I'll teach them and they'll listen and I always tell students if you don't really have a passion for it, if you don't think it's something you really have to do.

Every year, dozens of journalists most donate their homes, underwritten. Fortunately, violence,

This is the most dangerous period for journalism we've ever had a lot of foreign journalism as being done by what used to call freelancers, independent journalists. They don't have much support. My daughter was one of those independent journalists. It's dangerous. It's also important. Being involved with the Committee to Protect Journalists. That's one of the most important things that I do because I'm so passionate about journalism. One of my friends had a strength sense of humor when I came home he said to me: how does it feel to know that when you die, no matter when that is no matter what else you've done your obituary will read Terry Anderson former hostage. I've come to the point where that seven years is important to me, but it's part of my life. It's not who I am.

It's hoped the end of the Gulf War will mean the end of captivity for Terry Anderson. The former Batavia resident is beginning his seventh year as a hostage in Lebanon tonight. Use for his rich Newberg within our nation's capitol today we're Anderson's family joined by other Western New Yorkers heard promises that Terry Anderson is not forgotten.

When these Washington school children were just coming into the world or learning how to walk, Terry Anderson was taken hostage in Lebanon. His sister Peggy say has kept the torch of Hope burning since her brother disappeared six years ago. Today she was reassured that a political solution may be close at hand for the hostages.

It will be an act of governments. We're closer now than surely we have ever been. Your government has not forgotten. Many.

Former hostages placed yellow roses next to the names of those who have died at the hands of terrorists in Lebanon before the Desert Storm.

A new world order that cannot happen as long as there are hostages anywhere in the Middle East.

As the Dooleys of Buffalo made their plea to the captors, children marked the second two months of Terry Anderson's captivity. It is a haunting image that never lets go of those who have volunteered to help. There was a strong western New York presence here in Washington today measured in terms of personal commitment among those who made the journey here. I knew that if my brother was in this situation, I would want others to help me.

Me to hear things like this and I just want to do all I can to support them

Washington school children marched for the hostages today, while petitions from students at Union East Elementary and Cheektowaga. Were ready for delivery to President Bush and the torture of Hope continued to burn in Washington Rich Newberg News Four update

Attention was punctuated by the beating of the helicopter blades thank you so you stared straight ahead showing little emotion until Terry Anderson emerged. Then with tears in her eyes. She rushed forward to embrace her brother. Flashing thumbs up thank you overworld for six and a half year mission was complete. As they walked toward the hospital entrance, Terry broke away to greet the tours of reporters and photographers, his colleagues, journalists thanking them personally for keeping the faith a wave to the crowd with six year old Sulamei by his side, the daughter he has never known.

Then he emerged on the hospital balcony with fellow hostages Joseph Scipio and Alan Steen, all basking in the warmth of their newfound freedom. And despite the ordeal of six and a half years captivity, Anderson displayed the good humor and charm which provided so much comfort to the other hostages when they were being held. He had some fond thoughts for the people who kept vigil in his hometown of Batavia, New York

I will be up there to see you soon I hope. I owe them a lot.

Andy had high praise for the dog a determination of his sister and her global efforts to free up

It's great to have a sister like that.

Anderson is resting now he will undergo a battery of medical tests. But the people at the V's bought in the hospital who have seen many of the hostages come and go see Anderson looks surprisingly fit and well. Some describe them as being robust.

The release of Terry Anderson from years of brutal captivity has brought a mood of jubilation to his hometown of Batavia. That's where rich Newberg joins us now for a live report, Rich?

Thanks, Jackie and Kevin. There was some uncertainty here at the beginning of the day, but by day's end, Batavia breathed a collective sigh of relief and now if you follow the yellow ribbons on Main Street, they will lead you here to the engine house. restaurant, where a party is still going strong. Night Batavia celebrates a party six and three quarter years in the making.

My feelings are just great. I've been jumping up and down all day long. I said I haven't even been able to do the things I'm supposed to do because I forgotten what that was.

And everybody is just almost giddy. They're so happy to see how this person we can be so proud of him.

A prayer service at the Salvation Army headquarters in Batavia brought people together for a more solemn reflection on the past six years and on the day when Terry Anderson was taken captive.

Since that day, the people of this community have never given up hope. There has been a constant vigil of prayer surrounding Terry and his family and his loved ones. And today we gather in a day of celebration. Terry has been released.

As Terry Anderson emerged from captivity and made his way from Lebanon to Syria, his relatives and key supporters here in Batavia were monitoring every move as the drama unfolded on television. Terry Anderson's videotaped appearance reading a message by his captors, gave his sister in law some reassurance that Terry was not only coherent, but apparently in good health.

He looks healthy, feisty as ever. I fully expect that he's going to cope with everything that's coming his way.

When live pictures of a free Terry Anderson were carried on network television. Terry's former high school classmate Steve Hawley was amazed at what he saw.

I think he looks unbelievably good.

It looks better than than any tape we've ever seen him use. It's got an unbelievably good sense of humor. He just said to somebody, you've had a wreck for seven years and I have and we know that's not true.

They were personal, quiet statements made today by those who had to express themselves. The protective covering over the bust of Terry Anderson at the Genesee country mall was removed. So Peggy Says cousin Linda could place a yellow rose and a dog near Terry's hand and the chain that symbolized his captivity. And McDonald from Batavia Middle School, felt compelled to do something to express her joy. She was six years old when Terry Anderson was taken captive.

And we're so happy he's out because I can just imagine how terrible it was for him over there.

So it's party night in Batavia, also a night when people here are looking forward to the next step, a homecoming for Terry Anderson. You know, many of those who worked so hard to free Terry Anderson really never met the man and they are just waiting for the time when he comes back to Batavia the place that his sister in law said today, he still calls home.

Rich, over the last six and a half years you have been down to the Batavia community many times covering different aspects of the story is the one word that you could use to describe the emotion tonight. Is it a collective sigh of Thank God it's over?

Sure it is. It's relief, but Batavia of course has been put on the map nationally and perhaps even internationally and there's a I think a feeling of pride. I think that's the word I would use for Batavia tonight proud of Terry Anderson and the fact that he spent his boyhood right here in Batavia, New York.

And Rich you've watched the transformation in that city today, haven't you? It's been six and a half years in the making for the celebration, but you've been there all day long and you must have been seeing signs and ribbons go up all day.

Oh, yes, I was out there with the ribbons. Shoolchildren were putting up ribbons that that really was the lesson because these kids were just starting school when Terry Anderson was taken captive and they and they've learned the meaning of freedom over the years. And Terry Anderson represents to them. A symbol of hope and courage and now freedom.

It'll be wonderful when they can break that chain on that piece of artwork at the mall down there.

There'll be a great day and I hope she comes here soon.

You've done a great job. Have a good night and thank you very much for the repack if

you're watching WIVB TV

News Four Buffalo with Bob Carroll Jimson meteorologist Chuck gurney and Van Miller with big board sports. This is News four and six.

Better late than ever Jerry Anderson gets a pile of belated birthday wishes.

Good evening, everyone. He took the Big Apple by storm on his us arrival.

Tonight. Former hostage Terry Anderson is the star attraction in the nation's capital. As news force. Richard Newberg reports now it has been another day full of smiles and welcomes

With his daughter and Sulamay's mother by his side. Terry Anderson was broken home to freedom with a ceremony featuring schoolchildren mocking each of Terry's seven birthdays that passed while he was in captivity.

And children. Let's hear it.

It was a moving ceremony but not without its lighter moments. from our Washington Redskins kicker Mark Mosley presented Terry Anderson with a team chiding him about being from the Buffalo area and supporting the Buffalo Bills

I put my autograph on this ball but this year's and I have to say this was tongue in cheek as Terry is a Buffalo Bill fan, but this year is coming Superbowl fans but I really feel it's probably gonna be between the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills and we'll have to wait and see the TV.

Peggy Say says she relied on moral support from Western New Yorkers who had joined her in Washington.

Well, Batavia and thank you for all the support. We'll see you down the line.

Terry Anderson has said he wants to get on with his life. He still said he was overwhelmed with his Washington welcome. But on a political note, I asked the former hostage what he would tell President Bush at a meeting later in the day.

What I said before I think he got it right I think he did the right thing. It took a long time. It was frustrating to enormously difficult and complex question. But all the Americans are free now.

And then in between the President and several of the former hostages gave the chief executive a chance to reflect on the impact of the past three and a quarter years. Your
light on the simple truth that days and years apart. burn away the trivial things we once thought had value to reveal what truly matters in life, family, faith, hope and love.

Now, in just a few minutes, the President with some of the former hostages present will light the National Christmas Tree. And Bob and Carol I guess it's worth noting that this will be the first time in eight Christmases that no American is being held captive in Lebanon.

It's good to see him there at the White House. Rich I saw him in baseball and you've seen them now in Washington. Do you get the impression they just want to get these welcome homes behind them and actually get home.

He's a very gracious man but through the smiles and his moves are starting to feel a little lumbering as he as he moves he can tell he's strained a little bit. Doesn't want to answer any more questions. You had trouble with my question. Didn't want to really answer it. But he is always gracious. He is a wonder with a crowd. Whether it's one on one or with a crowd. He's something and to be in his presence was really an honor today.

Okay, Rich Newberg reporting live from Washington, DC. Thanks very much.

Well, he was held hostage for years in Lebanon some two decades ago. And now news four's Michelle McClintock reports. Former AP Middle East correspondent Terry Anderson is bringing a message of peace and freedom to his hometown of Batavia.

It's hard to believe it was over 25 years ago that Terry Anderson was captured in Lebanon in 1985. Western New Yorkers became very familiar with his story because Anderson is originally from Batavia. His sister Peggy se worked tirelessly for six and a half years to free her brother from the hands of Hezbollah Shiite militants to be released several times over the past two years. The former Mideast correspondent for the AP was held captive for seven years in the Middle East. Anderson says the current turmoil in the region is evidence that people there are yearning for freedom.

I think it is particularly poignant. Right at the moment after you watch the 85 million Egyptians stand up in peace, to claim their freedom.

Anderson is on the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization that monitors attacks on the press. Ironically, Lara Logan is on the board of directors. She's the CBS News correspondent who was brutally attacked last week in Cairo.

They burned Al Jezerra's office, they confiscated their equipment. They beaten the rest of journalists. Why? Because they knew as long as those journalists were free and telling the story that people were gonna win.

Anderson says he doesn't miss reporting. He says he has a greater mission now to promote peace. That's why he's back here in Batavia. A new peace garden will be planted here to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. And as he looks back to the Middle East, Anderson says he's hopeful for peace and a region so badly in need of freedom. Michelle McClintock for the 10 O'Clock News.

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