Today in History: Dec. 4

In the photo at top, the smiling child has just met her father, who is waving to reporters. He is Terry Anderson, and in the photo he is in the middle of his first day free after 2454 days as a hostage held in Beirut, Lebanon, by Hezbollah. A bureau chief for the Associated Press in Beirut, Anderson was grabbed from the car he was driving, grabbed in front of his colleagues, and taken prisoner on March 4, 1985. His wife was pregnant when he was taken hostage.

Six and a half years later, 25 years ago today, Terry Anderson and his daughter met when his captors decided to free him. Until 2013, Anderson was the longest-held American hostage in any circumstance; on November 26, 2013, Robert Levinson, held by unknown parties in Iran, may have broken Anderson’s record, but Levinson was last verified alive in 2011. Anderson may still own the sad record.

Today, Sulome is herself a journalist, one who has published in Vice and who has a new book out: The Hostage’s Daughter. Terry Anderson proudly told CNN that she is a “damn fine journalist.” She is. I am reading her book.

In March 1985, I was 16 and I knew that I wanted to work in newspapers or magazines. Terry Anderson was a journalist, a newspaperman, who had been taken hostage in the middle of a conflict. I followed every development in his story as it was reported: the rare release of a photo taken by the captors (Anderson looked beaten in them, and for years at a time, his captors did not give the world any information, they just kept taking hostages), rumors of his location, statements by his sister Peggy (who died last year).

Once upon a time, journalists were afforded a privilege of … if not protection, then non interference in conflict zones—a privilege shared with Red Cross/Red Crescent aid workers. Like aid workers, journalists were not supposed to be targets. Neither journalists not the parties in conflict want the journalists to become part of the story of the conflict.

That is how it used to be. Journalists have died in war zones before, of course (Ernie Pyle was shot and killed by enemy fire on Okinawa). When Terry Anderson was taken hostage, that changed, as did his life, the life of his loved ones, the life of his child.

In her book, Sulome, Anderson’s daughter, writes,

I still have an AP t-shirt my father gave my mother before he was taken. I often sleep in it, as it reminds me of a different time in journalism, one I fear will never return. On the back, it reads PRESS, DON’T SHOOT in five different languages. The idea of wearing such a t-shirt in most wars these days is ludicrous. Advertising oneself as a member of the press basically means issuing an invitation to every asshole with a longing for ransom money or a hankering to televise the gruesome death of a Westerner.

By December 4, 1991, six and a half years later, 25 years ago today, I had graduated high school, graduated college, decided I was not meant for journalism and entered graduate school as an English Literature major, and was half-way through graduate school. I saw the photo at top and I was thrilled and I felt like the name “Terry Anderson” was an echo from a different era in my life (six years for a 20-something certainly marks many eras). Twenty-five years later, I never finished graduate school, became a newspaperman, left that, had some adventures, and now I am trying to be a journalist again, albeit on a one-man blog.

Terry Anderson is now 68, is living a full life, is a professor, is on the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

* * * *
Until the election of 1848, American voters cast their ballots throughout the month of November in election years.

The Presidential elections that concluded on December 4 are: the election of 1816, in which James Monroe was elected; and 1844, in which James Polk was elected.

* * * *
Tsunemi Kubodera, a zoologist, and his team became the first to record footage of a live giant squid in its habitat, 3000 feet down in the Pacific Ocean, 10 years ago today:

* * * *
Shunryū Suzuki died 45 years ago today. Benjamin Britten died 40 years ago today. The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Britten:

Frank Zappa died on this date in 1993. Robert Loggia died one year ago today.

* * * *
Thomas Carlyle was born in 1795 on this date. Lillian Russell was born on this date in 1860. Rainer Maria Rilke was born on this date in 1875. A poem by Rilke:

After the summer’s yield, Lord, it is time
to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials
and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.
As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness.
Direct on them two days of warmer light
to hale them golden toward their term, and harry
the last few drops of sweetness through the wine.
Whoever’s homeless now, will build no shelter;
who lives alone will live indefinitely so,
waking up to read a little, draft long letters,
and, along the city’s avenues,
fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, “Day in Autumn”

Ronnie Corbett was born on this date in 1930. (He died on March 31.) Dennis Wilson was born in 1944 on this date.

* * * *
Wink Martindale is 83 today. Chris Hillman is 72. Southside Johnny Lyon is 68. Jeff Bridges is 67. Dr. Pamela Stephenson is 67 today. Patricia Wettig is 65. Cassandra Wilson is 61. Marisa Tomei is 52. Fred Armisen is 50 today. Jay Z is 47. Tyra Banks is 43.

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  1. s1ngal · December 4, 2016

    Ever so glad about this — “ I am trying to be a journalist again, albeit on a one-man blog.” I love them anecdotes!


    • Mark Aldrich · December 28, 2016

      Thank you for this very kind compliment and your many visits and “likes.”


Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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