In October of 2011, American aid worker Jessica Buchanan, and her Danish co-worker, Poul Thisted were kidnapped by Somali Pirates. Buchanan was in Somalia working on a de-mining project with the Danish Refugee Council. For 93 days Buchanan and Thisted were held in warehouses, out in the open exposed to the elements and moved to multiple locations. Buchanan was close to death, with no sanitation, on a starvation diet and growing sicker from an existing Thyroid condition and urinary tract infection. Buchanan had to remain strong as negations for her ransom drug on, no more time could be wasted. On January 25, 2012 Buchanan and Thisted were rescued by Navy SEALs.
One of the greatest parts about living in DC is the all the things that happen here; political, news, or historical in nature the experiences are exceptional. When I received an email about a military related book release occurring at the National Press Building, the story of Jessica Buchanan and her rescue by Seal Team 6, I had to attend. Anthony Flacco wrote the book, as told to him by Buchanan and her husband Erik Landemalm. Buchanan and her husband spent most of the evening sharing their personal feelings with all of us lucky enough to be in the room. To hear the emotions behind the words in the book was an unbelievable experience. Perhaps what impacted me the most about this couple was not only their unwavering devotion to each other, but their devotion to their core beliefs. It was surprising that this experience did not affect their love of the people of that region, they have since returned to continue their work. Frankly, I was absolutely astonished at that admission. The great respect I had for them increased ten-fold.
In the book Buchanan and Landemalm discuss their experiences, from both sides. The emotional turmoil each experienced was heart-wrenching. Landemalm described what it was like knowing there was nothing he could do but wait, something that would have driven anyone crazy. The love they have for each other was apparent as they spoke to us. A love that lead them along a path bringing them together and even toward this horrible event in their life. The book takes you along with them, when even as teenagers, their paths were slowly coming together. The visual words, as I like to call them, used in the book make everything so vivid, like you are living it with them.
After the event they stayed to speak personally with guests, and sign their book. As I waited in line, emotions were already brimming to the top for me related to my personal military life. When they spoke they addressed the fact that none of them had received any information about their rescuers. It didn’t surprise me, is a perfect description to me of what the military, they are there to perform a duty without regard for themselves, and without need for recognition. I introduced myself as a military blogger and spouse. Our interaction was overwhelming. It was as if we were able to communicate so much to each other with just a hug. Having never been able to thank her rescuers, but knowing what their families might have experienced, it felt as if I were a representative of her rescuers and of the military as a whole. The tears flowed freely from my eyes as we embraced. I felt so silly, being about as far removed from the situation as one could possible be, but I thought about other military spouses and my husband and all the sacrifices we make for moments like this. It was just this surreal moment between the two of us that I will treasure always.
While the events in the book are very emotional, it is still very accessible for those that might not normally read this type of book. Being a significant event in history, I don’t think anyone should miss the opportunity to experience this story. There was no way to know how changed that event would make me feel and after leaving it was clear to me that there was a reason I had gone. The connection Buchanan and I had was far beyond anything I could have imagined.