Monday, August 28, 2006

The Jill Carroll Story -- Epilogue today

For those who may have forgotten, today marks the end of the CS Monitor's serial printing of Jill Carroll's abduction and release. A multitude of links can be found at the blog set up for that purpose. The story is ten parts plus the Epilogue, but there are numerous sidebar notes, videos and other links as well. I saved the story in a folder for my own convenience. It prints out to about forty pages.

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.

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.

Jill is no longer a freelancer. To provide financial support in anticipation of her eventual release, the Monitor quietly made Jill a full-time employee a week after she was abducted. This fall, she's been accepted into a journalism fellowship program at a major university. After that, she plans to return to writing from overseas.

Why was she released? Probably no one really knows except for her kidnappers. Maybe the public pressure worked. Maybe private whispers via Western and Middle Eastern intelligence convinced influential Sunnis that harming Jill wasn't in their best interest.

Maybe as the political situation changed, so did the priorities of her kidnappers. Maybe the kidnappers just got what they wanted - publicity or the release of women from Abu Ghraib prison. Or maybe Jill herself - the smart, young American who spoke Arabic - helped alter her captors' plans.

"One of the most effective weapons against terrorism is the truth. The truth was that Jill Carroll was not the enemy of her captors. Her father spoke that truth, and the rest of the world repeated it," says Christopher Voss, special agent with the FBI's Crisis Negotiation Unit in Quantico, Va.

As far as the Monitor and Jill's family can determine, no ransom changed hands to win her release.

No comments: