"I felt like, for the first time in six months, which seemed like the longest I've ever been away from my dad," recalled Stansell's daughter Lauren, who was 14 at the time of his capture. "He was right there where I could touch him."
But just as suddenly, they were gone. The three men, fathers, husbands each, melted back into the jungles at gunpoint. They spent months, and years, moving from one prison camp to another. At one of those camps, there was a small gesture of kindness from one of their ruthless kidnappers. They got access to a transistor radio to share, a tiny treasure that became a lifeline to the outside world.
Nine months into their captivity, the men were moved to a new camp, which held Ingrid Betancourt.
It was apparent to the hostages that Betancourt held great authority, even while in captivity. According to the Americans, she helped dictate everything from where hostages were kept to when they bathed.
Whereas Gonsalves had a close relationship with Betancourt, Stansell's relationship with her was the opposite.
"Ingrid Betancourt, to me, is the most disgusting human being I've ever encountered," Stansell told "20/20."
Asked to elaborate, Stansell recalled the time when the FARC told them to split two cans of tuna fish among 10 hostages.
"We only have enough food for two spoonfuls apiece. And she just says, 'No, no, I need more,'" he said. "And so she took more tuna fish. And she believed -- because she was her --she deserved it."
Betancourt declined to be interviewed by "20/20."
Another Colombian hostage at the camp was Betancourt's campaign manager Clara Rojas. What happened to her in captivity haunted the other hostages.
Rojas had been kidnapped with Betancourt and was impregnated by a FARC guard. Although the FARC often forced female rebels to have abortions, Rojas was allowed to carry her baby to term only to endure unbelievable agony as she gave birth in the jungle.
"They put her on a table with basically an instruction booklet and a couple guys and put her under and just cut her open and took the baby out," Stansell said.
The baby's arm was broken in the process, but Rojas miraculously survived. She was eventually permitted to see her baby for only 45 minutes a day. Her story, however, did have a happy ending. She was released by the FARC in early 2008 after six years in captivity and reunited with her now-healthy boy, Emanuel.
There are so many hostages in Colombia that radio stations there devote time for people to talk to their family members locked up in the jungle. Soon, the three men were spending hours clustered around the radio, hoping to hear even a short message sent by telephone from home.
"It opens up a valve and your emotions spill out," said Gonsalves.
"The radio for us was a way to stay attached to the world, to humanity," added Stansell. "And to hear any news about our children, you know, was incredible."
Stansell was thrilled to hear from his kids, but when he finally got a message from his fiancée Malia, he realized something had changed. She didn't say "I love you."
As months turned into years, Gonsalves and Howes also felt their bonds with their wives slipping away, but the radio also brought the renewal of a relationship, in the voice of a woman Stansell never expected to hear from again.