Out of Captivity is a remarkable first-person account of living through something worse than a horrible nightmare. Yet the story is told with care, concern, and humanity in a way that will move your heart.
Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Tom Howes were on a routine surveillance mission to locate drug crops for a civilian contractor when their single-engine plane lost power over the mountains of Colombia in South America. A few seconds later, they crash landed in the worst possible place . . . near a group of FARC rebels who lived off "taxes" paid by drug cartels. In a few moments, they were captives . . . and hostages.
Bonded by their harsh treatment and dangerous circumstances, the three men did their best to survive and to help other hostages, many of whom they met over the next five and a half years before they were rescued. In many cases, fellow hostages were as unsettling and dangerous to them as the hostage takers were. They lived in fear that they would be executed during a rescue mission. Malnourished, putting up with very poor living conditions, carrying heavy loads and sometimes with chains sometimes around their necks, they kept going somehow. Under the primitive conditions, death and disease were constant threats as they scrambled to new hiding places under the jungle's canopy.
Occasional access to radios comprised their main means of knowing what was going on with their families and the efforts to free them. Hopes would soar . . . only to be almost instantly dashed. As bad as the physical conditions were, the psychological conditions were even worse. The men were also haunted by realizing that they had serious family responsibilities that they weren't meeting. Guilt alternated with fear to plague their days and nights.
But they emerged as better men than when they entered the Colombian jungle. Their hardships were like a refining fire that cleansed them of much that they came to see as undesirable about themselves. They seldom faltered in their commitment to one another and to doing the right thing.
We can only read this book and wonder if we would have survived . . . or done nearly as well. I don't think so in my case. My hat is off to these three men and to the inner strength they exhibited.
We should all pray for the release of the remaining hostages that are being held by the FARC.
The book is told in alternating first person by each of them men, picking up in the story line where the last one left off. That makes the story more intense and interesting.
I was particularly impressed by their insights into the psychology of their captors, other hostages, and themselves. They may not have degrees in psychology, but I think they know more than the equivalent of a doctorate in hostage-captor fears, attitudes, behaviors, and emotions. You'll be fascinated with what they have to share . . . especially how some of the captors were in more dangerous and depressed circumstances than the hostages.
on April 18, 2012
I bought this book as I had seen Ingrid Betancourt on Oprah and when I realized there was another book pertaining to the same sort of capture by the FARC I wanted to check it out.
My heart goes out to these amazing men. To be chained, starved and live in a jungle with the worst conditions makes me admire these gentlemen. Keith S writes the book so well and you almost feel yourself walking during those torturous 24 hour marches. Knowing myself I don't think I could of done what they did. How they survived is just so beyond me.
I am so proud they are now back to their families and when things look dismal in life all one has to do is look at the courage of these men, and life looks pretty darn good.
God Bless Keith, Marc and Tom.
So sorry the other two men did not make it out.