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Ceremony Marks Anderson Captivity; Bush Decries ‘Merciless’ Acts

March 17, 1990 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Friends, family and fellow journalists offered prayers for Terry Anderson’s freedom and expressed rage that his captivity had lasted five years at a tearful, sunlit ceremony Friday. President Bush deplored the ″merciless imprisonment″ of U.S. hostages but offered no hope for a speedy end to their ordeal.

Bush promised Anderson’s sister, Peggy Say, who has devoted the five years to bringing the journalist’s captivity to the world’s attention, that he would ″take advantage of all legitimate opportunities″ to free the captives.

The president said he has a ″heavy heart″ when he thinks of the hostages - and said he thinks of them often.


Anderson, 42, chief Mideast correspondent for The Associated Press, was seized on March 16, 1985, in Beirut, where he had been reporting that city’s chaos. His daughter was born shortly thereafter, and he has never seen her.

Bush did not attend the ceremony at LaFayette Park, across the street from the White House, but sent Mrs. Say a letter saying, ″I intend to keep open lines of communications with all parties, including Iran, who have influence over hostage takers.″

He spent 30 minutes with Mrs. Say and her husband, David, before Anderson’s family joined journalists and others at the somber ceremony.

″You are not forgotten, Terry,″ said the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, who had been held with Anderson in a bleak, windowless room in Beirut before being released in the summer of 1986. Jenco also recited the 23rd Psalm and said it was the prayer that Anderson had recited when the two of them were moved and denied a prayer book.

Participants at the ceremony, some wearing yellow ribbons, some with tears in their eyes, heard prayers and songs on a warm, sunny day that contrasted with speakers’ descriptions of dungeon-like conditions Anderson has endured.

″At this point the greatest gift we can give him is to press on, to not falter, to find an honorable way to get the job done. If you know Terry, that’s what he’s thinking, too,″ said Louis D. Boccardi, president and general manager of The Associated Press.

Anderson was honored by several of his professional colleagues. Dan Rather, the CBS anchorman, called the ceremony ″a little something″ Americans can do for Anderson, and Tom Brokaw, an NBC television anchor, said he felt rage at Anderson’s captors.


″We must all be certain that our reservoir of rage never runs dry but at the same time we must hope that these new trickles of hope will replace the rage,″ Brokaw said.

No Greater Love, a Washington-based humanitarian organization, sponsored the ceremony, one of several observances in honor of Anderson and other hostages.

In New York, Anderson’s friends and colleagues attended a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In Tokyo, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan honored Anderson, who was assigned to the AP Tokyo bureau from 1977 to 1981.

At a news conference after the Washington ceremony, Mrs. Say said she was encouraged by the meeting with Bush, her first since he was elected president. She said he was doing his best and the hostages were ″in his thoughts and in his prayers every day.″

In the past, Mrs. Say has criticized U.S. officials for failing to do more to gain freedom for the eight American hostages thought to be held by pro- Iranian Moslem Shiites in Lebanon. Altogether, there are 18 Western hostages.

While Bush refused to suggest the hostages might be released soon, Mrs. Say said she is ″convinced in my heart that in the coming weeks we will see the resolution of this crisis.″

Asked why, she said: ″I have faith and that is why I am standing here now and Terry has faith and that is why he is alive today.″

While Mrs. Say said he wants her brother released after five ″battle-worn, painful, weary years,″ she rejected the idea of paying ransom for his release.

In Beirut, local television stations planned to show a videotape of Anderson’s 4-year-old daughter, Sulome, whom he has never seen. In the tape, the child shows off her ballet dancing and delivers a message for her father: ″I love you, Daddy, come home. Please come home.″

In his letter to Mrs. Say, Bush wrote that he and his wife ″share your great sorrow at the approach of the fifth anniversary of Terry’s abduction. As you so poignantly expressed in your letter, the tragedy of your brother’s merciless imprisonment exists in his missing the simple enjoyments of watching children born and growing up.″ The president said he continued to seek the immediate, unconditional and safe release of the hostages.

Bush also said he had not discussed the hostages with former President Jimmy Carter, who recently met with officials in Syria to try to get the captives freed. The president called Carter’s visit ″unofficial.″

In a letter published by seven Beirut newspapers, Sulome’s mother, Madeleine Bassil, told Anderson that she and the girl also feel like hostages. ″We are in as much captivity, Terry, only our living space is bigger here and it’s shared by millions,″ she said.

The other Americans and the dates they were captured:

Thomas Sutherland, dean of agriculture at the American University of Beirut, June 9, 1985; Frank Herbert Reed, director of the Lebanon International School in Beirut, Sept. 12, 1986; Joseph James Cicippio, acting comptroller of the American University of Beirut, Sept. 12, 1986; Edward Austin Tracy, author, Oct. 21, 1986; Jesse Jonathan Turner, visiting professor of mathematics and computer science at Beirut University College, Jan. 24, 1987; Robert Polhill, assistant professor of business at Beirut University College, Jan. 24, 1987, and Alann Steen, journalism professor at Beirut University College, Jan. 24, 1987.