Independence Day

An article in Best Life Magazine titled My Independence Day states that I never really know what all my blessings were until I was held captive in the middle east, and it goes on to explain the experience of Steve Centanni a journalist of the Fox News Channel.

In honor of July 4th, here’s an article from Best Life Magazine titled My Independence Day.

It took captivity in the Middle East for me to value all of our blessings

“Freedom for me always meant movement. When I was a child, I would
pester my parents to go somewhere—to the beach, on a picnic. When I was
old enough to strike out on my own, I went to Europe, the Far East,
Africa. I never stopped. But on August 14, 2006, someone made me stop,
and I learned about true freedom.

I was in Gaza City to cover the Palestinian conflict with Israel. My
cameraman, Olaf Wiig, and I headed to our hotel, driving down a narrow
side street. Suddenly, the little pickup truck in front of us stopped.
By the time we realized it wasn’t moving, four gunmen had piled out and
swarmed our SUV. They put 9 mm pistols to our heads and stuffed us down
into the back of their pickup. They pulled hoods over our heads, bound
our hands behind us with plastic zip ties, and sped away. It all
happened so fast, I almost didn’t believe it was real.

My heart was jackhammering. I was blind. The pickup whipped around
turns, starting, stopping. I don’t have heart trouble, but I wondered
if I was going to have a heart attack.

The loss of control was the worst part. Americans in particular,
because we enjoy so many freedoms, are big on control. It’s ingrained
into our psychology. Imagine all of a sudden you have zero control over
anything. It’s a horrible, helpless feeling.

Eventually, we arrived at a building that had a metal garage door (I
heard it rumbling overhead). They dumped us onto a grimy floor. I could
hear Olaf breathing next to me, but then a big industrial generator
roared to life and drowned out everything. The place stank of car
exhaust and motor oil. Something I assumed was a gun barrel was pressed
against my head. Anytime I tried to sit up, someone would push me down
with his foot. I thought, I can’t tolerate much more of this.

After six hours, they moved us to an apartment with a mattress on the
floor. The blindfolds came off, they cut the ties off our hands, and we
could move a bit. But men were always there with Kalashnikovs and
pistols. Once, one of them came into our room, tossing a hand grenade
like a baseball.

They fed us constant propaganda. “Bush is bad, Osama is king”—that kind
of stuff. Olaf didn’t tell me until later, but they told him he was
safe because he was from New Zealand. I, on the other hand, was
obviously a spy for Israel and they would soon kill me. (I’m glad he
kept that to himself.)

On the fifth day, our kidnappers told us they wanted to make
videotapes. That ratcheted up the fear. Olaf replied, “There’s one very
good reason we might not want to do that,” and he slit his finger
across his throat. Our captors laughed, nodded, and said, “Zarqawi!”
One of them replied, “That is Iraq. This is Palestine. We don’t do that
here.” Which wasn’t totally reassuring. Even as we were forced to read
anti-Western tirades and allowed to tell our loved ones we were okay,
the fear never let up.

They held us for 13 days. On August 27, they packed us into a car and
dumped us in front of the Gaza Beach Hotel. Just as suddenly as we were
taken, we were free. I still don’t really know who they were or what
they ultimately got out of it.

I do, however, know what I got out of it: a deeper understanding of
what freedom is. It’s not just that feeling I had when I was a kid of
going wherever I wanted. It’s controlling when and how you’ll go. You
don’t realize how valuable freedom is until someone seizes it. I had to
face the possibility that my travels were over, that this was the last
stop. My family and friends would never see me again, all because I’m a
journalist with wanderlust.

I haven’t traveled back to Gaza yet. I don’t know if I ever will.
Places like that have always been dangerous for journalists. Usually,
you’re able to keep that fear at bay so that it doesn’t influence your
decision to go. But now I’m afraid it has to influence my decisions a
little more. I’m thankful that I can go back if I choose. I’m free to
make that decision entirely on my own.”

Steve Centanni is a national correspondent for the Fox News Channel.

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