Book Excerpt: 'The Survivors Club'

The gun at his ear was the first clue, followed by a rough shove into the backseat of the green Mercedes. Terry Anderson remembers thinking: I am in deep shit. I am in real bad trouble. And it's not going to be over soon. His instinct was absolutely right. The Associated Press correspondent in Lebanon would be blind-folded, chained to a wall, and held hostage for 2,454 days.

Early on the morning of March 16, 1985, Anderson had just finished playing tennis with a friend in West Beirut. On a narrow road, he encountered three scruffy men with guns. "Get in. I will shoot," one man said, pointing the pistol at his head. He hurled Anderson to the floor and threw an old blanket over him. After a short drive, Anderson was bound in tape, blind-folded with a filthy strip of cloth, and interrogated.

Later he was chained to a steel cot with his hands and feet in shackles. He could not stand, let alone sit up straight. He was forced to relieve himself in a putrid plastic bottle next to the bed. After twenty-four days prostrate on the metal frame, Anderson thought he would go mad. He told one of his captors: "I can't do this anymore. I'm not an animal. I am a human being. You can't treat me like this."

"What do you want?" the guard asked.

"A book. A Bible . . . You must loosen these chains. I will go crazy."

The next day, Anderson's restraints were relaxed, and they brought him a brand-new red Bible. They let him take off his blindfold to read for thirty minutes. He savored the smell of the fresh ink, the new binding, and the ?rst words of Genesis: In the beginning . . .

When we speak, Anderson is finishing a home-cooked lunch of pasta and salad. He's drinking a glass of South African pinotage, a red wine. He keeps seven hundred bottles in his cellar, and there's room to grow. It can hold three thousand. He lives on a 250-acre ranch in Athens County, Ohio, where life is good.* He boards and trains about a dozen horses. Earlier in the morning, he tried to teach some manners to a two-year-old Missouri fox trotter named Scheherazade. Now he's looking out over a two-acre pond, horse pastures, stables, and paddocks.

I ask him how he and the other hostages survived all those days in captivity. "We all had to reach inside ourselves to ?nd whatever we had," he explains. "It is extraordinary what people are capable of doing." A marine in Vietnam, Anderson was a correspondent on three continents and reported on every kind of natural and human disaster. In his long career in journalism, he regrets that he didn't write more about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. His most fascinating laboratory was his captivity in Lebanon, where he met nine other hostages. He's kept careful track of the others over the years. Of roughly twenty long-term hostages who made it home, Anderson says, one went straight to a mental hospital and never emerged while another spent ten years in and out of institutions.

"All of us were damaged in some ways," he says, "but I believe we have recovered well.**

* After his release, Anderson sued Iran for sponsoring his kidnappers. In March 2000, a federal judge awarded him and his family $341 million in damages for their pain and suffering. Anderson says he never received the whole amount but was given a substantial sum from frozen Iranian assets.

** Anderson is quick to point out that at least ten hostages perished or were executed in captivity.

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