Jill Carroll arrives home
After 82 days in captivity, Carroll arrived in Boston to join her family Sunday.
As Jill Carroll's plane approached Boston Sunday - heading to a private reunion with her mother, father, and twin sister - she reveled in the small wonders of her freedom.Skip to next paragraph
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After she boarded her flight from Frankfurt Sunday, she was touched to find a red rose on her dinner tray. She picked it up and inhaled deeply.
"I finally feel like I am alive again. I feel so good," Carroll said Sunday. "To be able to step outside anytime, to feel the sun directly on your face - to see the whole sky. These are luxuries that we just don't appreciate every day."
After her 82 days of captivity in Iraq, Ms. Carroll was reunited with her family amid long hugs and joyful tears. Like any American dad, Jim Carroll had the video camera running when a dark, unmarked van pulled up. At first, the Carroll family wasn't sure if it was Jill or not.
They crowded around an open living-room window and yelled her nickname, "Zippy," out the window, waving wildly.
Seconds later, she came through the door and the family met her coming down the hallway in a single family embrace.
Jill wept, and said, "I'm sorry."
Carroll is just starting to become aware of how many people were touched by her plight - and to appreciate her freedom.
During the first hour of her homeward flight, she admired the rose's pure color, occasionally holding the flower up to the sunlight streaming in the window.
Later, a flight steward dropped off a copy of Friday's USA Today. She saw her own face framed by a black head scarf looking back. It was a photo of the giant poster that had been erected in Rome.
But what tickled her most were the pictures of her family. She kissed the photo of her dad, Jim Carroll. "He looks good," she said. She ran her fingers over the photo of her mom, Mary Beth.
After morning and afternoon debriefings with members of the US Hostage Working Group in Baghdad, she began her journey home, lifting off from Iraq early Saturday. She was accompanied by a Monitor correspondent, a US State Department official, and two US military officials on a C-17 military flight to Germany.
After landing at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, she spent a rainy Saturday napping, talking with her family by phone, and catching up on the news. She learned of the controversy surrounding the release of a videotape, made by her captors, of Carroll criticizing President Bush and US policies in Iraq. She spent part of the afternoon drafting a response.
"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me they would let me go if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. I agreed," she said in a statement issued Saturday.
"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered Allan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Allan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends - and all those around the world, who have prayed so fervently for my release - through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this."
Carroll had been their captive for three months and even the smallest details of her life - what she ate and when, what she wore, when she could speak - were at her captors' whim. Before making the last video, she was told that they had already killed another American hostage.
That video appeared Thursday, March 30, on a jihadist website that carries videos of beheadings and attacks on American forces.
In fact, Carroll did what many hostage experts and past captives would have urged her to do: Give the men who held the power of life and death over her what they wanted.
"You'll pretty much say anything to stay alive because you expect people will understand these aren't your words," says Micah Garen, a journalist and author who was held captive by a Shiite militia in southern Iraq for 10 days in August 2004. "Words that are coerced are not worth dying over."