When Jill Carroll was nearly 4 years old, her family held a picnic at Kensington Park, a beach and lake recreation area outside Detroit. At one point, her mother, Mary Beth Carroll, realized that Jill had disappeared.
Mary Beth turned around and saw a strange man walking away, his arms extended as if he were a fork lift. His cargo was Jill, who was lying on her back, screaming and punching.
When Mary Beth caught up to him, the man said he thought the little girl was lost. Only later, after the shock had worn off, did she realize he might have been trying to abduct her daughter.
At least she fought, her mother thought.
Mary Beth Carroll took some comfort from this memory after her daughter was seized in Baghdad. Jill would be terrified, Mary Beth believed. But she would not cower.
Mary Beth, a retired high school teacher, lives in Evanston, Ill. On the morning of Jan. 7, she was in Minneapolis visiting her parents.
Her cellphone rang at 5:30 a.m., rousing her from sleep. A woman from the State Department was on the line. She was sympathetic but direct. "Steel yourself, Mrs. Carroll," she said. "Your daughter has been abducted and her translator killed."
Mary Beth called Jill's twin sister, Katie, and other family members, then quickly showered and dressed.
An hour or so later, Marshall Ingwerson, managing editor of the Monitor, reached her. Calmly, Mary Beth told him that Jill could think on her feet and was probably smarter (with an IQ of 140) than her kidnappers.
Mr. Ingwerson thought Jill's mother was incredibly strong and was trying to comfort him. But she was really trying to comfort herself.
The first day, she thought she'd never sleep again. But she was so on edge that her body became exhausted. Jim Carroll, Jill's father who lives in North Carolina, experienced the same phenomenon. The whole ordeal was grueling, but even on the worst days, sleep came quickly for most of the family.
I spent my first full day of captivity sitting in a plastic chair in the second-floor bedroom of a house in Baghdad, while the sound of gunfire echoed around me.
I kept thinking, it's just Baghdad, that's the way it is. But the shooting, which had begun the night before, went on all day. Some of it was close.
Around dusk Abu Rasha, the No. 2 in charge and owner of the house, came into the room. He looked exhausted.
"I'm very, very tired, all day I'm fighting with the soldiers," he said. Then he made a ggggg-ggg sound, in imitation of an automatic weapon.
He sat down on the bed and sighed.
"They're right here. They're very near," he said. "Why, Jill? Why are the soldiers here? Why are the soldiers so near here?"
The question was an accusation.
I realized he thought I was somehow telling the US military where I was. For my own safety, I needed to make him see I was very upset by that idea.
"I don't know! I don't know!" I said, my voice rising.
"You don't have a mobile phone?" he said. "Maybe in your hair?"
I ripped off my head scarf and shook my hair loose. This was completely inappropriate behavior that would normally have deeply offended a Muslim man as apparently devout as he, but I was desperate.
His hands went through my hair, checking my scalp for whatever he imagined I might have hidden there. Finally, he was satisfied. He left the room.
I collapsed into the plastic chair and started to cry, silently, afraid he would be angry if he heard me.
But suddenly he returned. He rushed over, grabbed my hand, and knelt next to me.
"I'm so sorry. No, Jill, don't cry. I'm so, so, so sorry," he said, emphatically. "No, no, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm your brother."
He was overwrought. Why should he care if I was upset? He'd kidnapped me, after all.
I knew I had just learned something important, something that might help me get through whatever was to come.
The next day I was told that US and Iraqi soldiers had raided the Um al-Qura Mosque – just a mile from Adnan al-Dulaimi's office.
Much later, I learned that the raid was prompted by a tip from an Iraqi civilian about my location. It was the closest US forces would come to rescuing me over the next three months.
• • •
In the first minutes of my kidnapping the insurgents, who had seized me and killed Alan, seemed shocked at their success. They didn't appear to have a plan for what to do next.
But in the days that followed, a pattern developed that held throughout my captivity.
I was moved often. They provided me meals that Iraqis would think fit for guests, as well as small luxuries such as expensive toiletries.
Yet I was a prisoner. My captors would unexpectedly explode with bitter accusations that I was a spy, or Jewish, or hiding a homing device. They'd boast about their exploits fighting – and once sharing a meal – with American soldiers while I was in captivity.
In response, my mood would veer wildly. One moment I'd be sure they were going to kill me. The next I'd think they were going to let me go, that it was only a matter of time.
Overall, I just wanted it to be over with, whatever "it" was going to be. I remember being in a hurry to get done with it from the moment it began.
• • •
That first day, they were spooked by how close the soldiers had come to finding me. Abu Rasha said they had to move to the house of Abu Ali, his "brother." I thought he meant his real brother. Later, I realized this was just a reference to a fellow mujahideen.
Abu Rasha packed my stuff for me, but forgot to put in the toothpaste and shampoo they'd given me the night before. I thought, maybe there's a reason he didn't put them in – desperately overanalyzing everything. I asked about them, and he put them in the bag.
Abu Rasha removed my glasses (I'd found the missing lens in the car) and put two black scarves over my head and face so I wouldn't be able to see where they were taking me. Hanging onto his arm, I stumbled blindly out of the house and into a car, trying to suck fresh air through the suffocating layers of black polyester.
After a short drive we switched cars, and I cowered, motionless in the strange, new back seat. Soon I realized that there were children next to me, and men in the front seat.
A cassette blared a recitation of the Koran and every few minutes the nervous men would mutter "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar," as we drove through the darkness.
Then one of them said in Arabic, "What are you? What are you?"
A tiny voice next to me replied, "I'm a mujahid," a holy warrior.
It was a boy – I'd learn that his name was Ismael, and he was 5 years old. Just a child, already indoctrinated.
After some 20 minutes, the car stopped and a woman's gloved hand grasped mine, guiding me out of the car and into a house. My heart was racing; the adrenaline hadn't stopped in 24 hours. Barely a day had passed and I was a broken, quivering, fearful shell.
She lifted the scarves. In a rush of air and light I saw her face, smiling and welcoming in a sitting room lined with cushions. Abu Rasha entered, and the woman flipped down a black scarf on her head, covering all but her eyes.
"This is Um Ali and this is Abu Ali," Abu Rasha told me, smiling. Um is Arabic for mother, Abu is father. But all my captors' names were fake, as each adopted a nom de guerre in my presence.
I looked to the left to a rotund man with a stubbly salt-and-pepper beard and grandfatherly eyes. He was smiling, too, and looked friendly.
"Do you know Abu Ali?" said Abu Rasha. "Do you know him from yesterday?"
"No," I said.
I looked at him again – and then I did know who he was. He was the man that held the gun on Adnan, my driver, during my abduction – the fat guy with the beard.
"Oh no," I thought to myself. This was not OK.
Next part: Shooting the first video.