Monday, April 21, 2008

April 21, 2008 4:37 p.m.

Dear Diary:

Basking in the sunshine of a son returned home! Yesterday was long but so satisfying. To see and hug our dear one was the best gift!

We arrived at the airport at 2:15, about the time their flight landed. We trekked upstairs to the conference room that had been reserved for the families to meet up with the crew before the press conference. I was tentative. I didn't know how I was going to respond. Part of me didn't want to be there. I felt like he might need some space. Maybe he would just want to see and spend time with Laurie. I'm a mother. I know how it works. There comes a time in every young man's life when his mother is no longer the central woman in his world. I'm okay with that. Maybe it was a mistake for me to come. Waiting was hard. I felt uneasy. It was weird, surreal. Then, they walked through the doors with their escorts. I hung back. First David and deep, lasting hugs. Then Laurie, and tears and hugs and kisses and more lingering hugs. I shouldn't have come. They need their time, their space. Then, "Mama," and the hug and the joy. We all went into the conference room. More hugs and handshakes--strangers had become friends, more than friends, nearly family. We share a strange, invisible bond with these people who we might otherwise not even met. Then Senator Cantwell entered the room. Mood changed--awe for a moment. She is, after all, a US Senator. But then, she is also just a human being, one to whom we owe a great deal. She was gracious. She met everyone. She asked for their stories. She wanted to know what the "takeaway" was. What should she, should the US government be doing to help change things in the Niger. Then we were interrupted. We had to vacate the conference room and head to the "theater" for the press conference. As we walked toward the stairs we could see down below us a gathering of journalists with tv cameras, still cameras and clipboards and pens. I was walking in the front of the line but quickly gave up my spot. Didn't want to be the first one on film. We made our way into the room where, after everyone was settled, Senator Cantwell made her statements and then introduced the director, Sandy. Sandy read their statement and that is when it hit me. That's when the tears finally came. It was that moment when I realized that we hadn't really known the whole story and God, in his infinite wisdom, had guarded us from the whole truth. If we had not been shielded I would have been paralyzed with fear. The awful truth is that they suffered much worse than we imagined and were possibly in much worse danger than we imagined. From being forced at gunpoint into trucks and hauled from the creeks to Warri to Abuja (hours by truck in the middle of the night) to being deprived of water when it was more than 100 degrees at times in their cells. And yes, the men were kept in a cell behind bars. They were in fact arrested, contrary to what we had been told. and their captors seemed very pleased to have snagged a group of filmmakers. They were interrogated and intimidated. Sean was repeatedly asked to divulge names and addresses of everyone he knew. They were asked repeatedly what each piece of equipment was for and why they had it. When they were visited by the representative of the consulate it was always in the presence of their captors so that they felt intimidated about saying anything honest. This was translated to us as "not complaining" about their treatment! Maddening!! We were told that they were flown to Abuja, that they were being well cared for; that they were getting medical attention even though one of them who was diabetic was denied his insulin for 2 days. And in the end, they realized that no matter how badly they were treated, they were still being treated better than Nigerians in the same position.

I will continue to share over the next few days. In the meantime, folks who have missed it can see the press conference at these two links:

I am so glad to have Sean home. God is good. I am proud of him and his part in trying to draw international attention to what our dependence on oil has wreaked on the Niger Delta.

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