Freedom Anniversary, 2018
Four years ago this morning, on 23 September 2014, I woke up in a filthy house in central Somalia, feeling weak and miserable. I’d been captive for two and a half years and had no reason to think my status would change. My pirate guards fed me a sullen porridge of beans, the way you might feed a goat or a horse, and a few hours later they put me on the phone with a negotiator. The good man had no time to tell me a thing before one pirate grabbed the phone from my fingers — “Proof of life, only!” — and ended the call.
My blood pressure rose and stayed up for hours. I didn’t know what was about to happen. My heart just thumped with anger and grief. In most respects it was a normal day.
By the afternoon I was on a single-engine plane for Mogadishu. Twenty minutes after that I was on an Air Force transport plane for Nairobi. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of my family, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a number of US and German publications, members of the FBI and their German counterparts (the BKA), an unending nightmare had come to an end.
I wish I knew how to thank everyone.
For several months in Somalia this Nina Simone song had dominated the part of my mind that responds only to music. It’s called “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” and I caught a snatch of it on my shortwave early in 2014. It still wrenches me like no other song.