Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story – Epilogue: Family reunion
On April 2, 2006, a white Lufthansa 747 with the designation "Hamburg" written on its side taxied up to a gate at Boston's Logan Airport. At 12:22 p.m., Jill Carroll stepped off the plane and onto US soil.Skip to next paragraph
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As she passed through customs, agents and other officials on duty crowded around for a chance to see her. Whisked into a waiting car, she was driven to the Monitor's headquarters in Boston's Back Bay, a police escort around her and news helicopters overhead.
Jill was traveling light. She'd left a big yellow bag of clothes and toiletries from her captivity in the Green Zone in Baghdad. She'd decompressed there for a day, talking to members of the US Embassy's Hostage Working Group, before traveling on an aircraft carrying American casualties to Ramstein Air Force Base in Landstuhl, Germany.
In Boston, her car went straight into the underground garage of the Christian Science church headquarters. In a preplanned bit of evasion, she was led through basement corridors under the complex to a loading dock on a nearby side street. She then jumped into a blue van – easily missing the media horde camped outside the Monitor building.
The van went only a few blocks, to a nearby church-owned townhouse. There, Jim, Mary Beth, and Katie crowded around an open window, yelling her nickname, "Zippy!"
Jill met them coming down the hallway in a whole-family embrace. She wept and said, "I'm sorry." She was home.
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Nearly five months on, what's to be learned from Jill Carroll's kidnapping and release?
Monitor editors and correspondents were heartened by the global condemnation of the kidnapping, especially from Muslim religious leaders and even militant groups, such as Hamas. They remain proud of the media campaign they helped mount, from the solicitation of statements on Jill's behalf to the public service announcements that ran in the Iraqi media. They believe it was targeted to the right audience – the Middle East – and well placed. They know the kidnappers saw some of it.
It's presumptuous to say it led directly to her release, but "I do think that changed the mental climate," says Richard Bergenheim, editor of the Monitor.
Another obvious conclusion is that Iraq has become a very dangerous place for the news media. More than 100 journalists, including interpreters and assistants, have died there since March 2003.
Since Jill's kidnapping, the Monitor has upgraded its security measures in Baghdad – both because of what had happened to her and because of the worsening situation on the ground. Editors won't detail those measures, so as not to undermine their effectiveness. The paper has kept a British security firm on retainer for consultation.
As for Jill herself, she says that her experience taught her about priorities. Throughout her 82-day ordeal, she missed her family and her friends. Work and success didn't seem so important anymore. "I never once wished I'd filed one more story," she says.
But she doesn't regret going to Iraq in the first place. She was doing what she had always wanted to do – foreign reporting. Since her release, she has returned to Egypt, and is glad of it. She experienced again the distinctive culture of the Islamic world in a peaceful context.
"What happened to me is not the whole Middle East," she says.