Australian Broadcasting Corporation
TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT
Kidnapped US man's family awaits news
Reporter: Kerry O'Brien
KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. And the video you just saw was 56-year-old US contractor Roy Hallums - who worked for a Saudi Arabian catering company servicing the Iraqi army - one of six snatched on November 1 last year from their Baghdad district office by heavily armed insurgents. Four of the six were released relatively quickly. Then on November 11 came the video. Six months later, Hallums and a Filipino workmate named Robert Tarongoy are still missing. And in America his family waits - largely - in a vacuum. Susan, his wife of 30 years - now divorced - and their two daughters have been forced to rely on the Internet to stay vaguely in touch on Roy Hallums' fate. They posted a US,000 reward for information that would shed light on his captors or his whereabouts. Susan Hallums believes a US million ransom was demanded, but if negotiations are continuing at all, they're obviously not making much headway. As the family of Douglas Wood keeps its own private vigil, I spoke late today with Susan Hallums from her Orange County, California home.
Susan Hallums, how did your family's personal crisis unfold when Roy Hallums was kidnapped?
SUSAN HALLUMS: Well, we were informed - my daughter was called by the State Department and later that evening I was - someone came and told me as well about 10 o'clock that night on November 2nd.
KERRY O'BRIEN: How did it impact on you?
SUSAN HALLUMS: My heart was just broken because he looked extremely ill in his video and he was asking for help and he also asked for help from his family. So, that saddened us so much because we really and truly have tried to help, but in a case like this, it is hard. You don't know what to do. You reach out to try to help and you want everyone to remember him because it sometimes seems that hostages can be forgotten.
KERRY O'BRIEN: I assume that people did step forward to offer you advice and your daughters advice, to keep you informed? Six months is a very long time.
SUSAN HALLUMS: Right. In the beginning we were told that it was best not to really talk about it, so we really didn't - as my daughter says, we suffered in silence for about six weeks. Of course we lived on the Internet because we were given - we were told we couldn't really - they couldn't share any information with us. It was classified. So, we began to see stories on the Internet that was coming from the Philippines because there was - you know, Robert Tarongoy was taken with Roy and we were seeing news and we saw Roy's name come out on the computer over, you know, from that part of the world, and we really had not gotten any information over the last six months. So it was horrible to hear about the kidnapping, but it's also so extremely hard not to have any information when someone that you love and care about in your family has been taken and you can't know any details. That makes it all the worse.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Now, Roy was contracted to a Saudi Arabian catering company. I assume that catering company was involved in some kind of negotiation process?
SUSAN HALLUMS: Right.
KERRY O'BRIEN: So, have you been in a vacuum through this process or do you have much comprehension of how - what negotiation has taken place and how it has taken place?
SUSAN HALLUMS: Like I say, we're not given many details. We've been in contact somewhat with his company, but that was even - we were even discouraged against communicating with his company because we're always told we can have - there can be no information that is shared. So everything we talk about is really just - we've had a lot of times on our hands with six months going by and it's sad to say, but a lot of our conclusions have been from what we've gathered on the Internet.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Of course of the five others that were taken hostage with your husband, four were released I think within 24 hours. Now, when you got that news I imagine your hopes must have gone up?
SUSAN HALLUMS: Uhm, of course. Our hopes and prayers and our faith is still here, but it's been an emotional rollercoaster. Like if another hostage is taken, it is sort of like the pain repeats itself. When I hear another hostage has been taken, it's almost like I'm being told again about Roy being taken again and it's extremely hard because my heart breaks for the family because I know what it feels like.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Have you and the family had much sense of American support, American public sympathy behind you? Do you think they are even particularly aware of the case six months on?
SUSAN HALLUMS: Uhm, I mean, even friends of ours that were close to us that have called me in the last few weeks that have just found out about it because it hasn't - it's sort of silenced and it's been nothing like when other countries have had hostages and there's huge protest. Here it is pretty quiet.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Having heard now about Douglas Woods' kidnapping, I wonder what message you might have for his family?
SUSAN HALLUMS: Right. I would say to please feel free to call on us if there is anything I can do to bring any comfort to you that my heart just honestly and truly breaks for you as a family and honestly a lot of people can't understand how you feel because you just don't know until something like this happens. You can't know.
KERRY O'BRIEN: So you clearly haven't given up hope?
SUSAN HALLUMS: Oh, absolutely. I believe if once - I believe if you keep the faith and you keep hope alive and we say our prayers that I absolutely believe he's alive. It is like I said, it is limited what you can do, but we've tried everything, everything we can possibly think to do. Anything that will help. I've reached out to senators and even Reverend Jesse Jackson, he made an appeal as well. But we just - every day I try to keep the ideas flowing of what we can do.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Susan Hallums, thank you very much for talking to us.
SUSAN HALLUMS: Thank you, Kerry.
What's New With My Dad
You tell me. Because you know just as much as I do. That is why I have been so frustrated with authorities about my father's case. Everything is labeled "confidential" because we (as his family) do not have the "security clearance" to find out the details of my father's case. Authorities will not release even old information to us, even before we went to the media. I can understand not releasing the most current information to us due to the nature of the investigation, but not providing us with any information has been almost as difficult as my father's abduction itself.
For the majority of the time while my Dad has been kidnaped, most of the information that I have, besides the fact that my father was kidnapped, was from the internet. We were not allowed to know anything about the status of my father's kidnapping, even down to whether or not his personal effects are being taken care of, nothing. I would like to change this (and how families are treated in general by various governmental agencies) for future families, so that they will not have to go through what we have gone through.
Obviously, the newest development is the video tape released by the kidnappers with my Dad pleading for his life, as he has a gun pointed in his face. No daughter should ever have to see their father in such a state. It breaks my heart to watch that video and see the effects of his poor treatment. I can only hope that something positive happens soon and my Dad is released.
Below: Here's the Magnet!
Recent Articles,Talking to the Media and Public Officials, and "Thank Yous"
April 24, 2005
The ordeal of hostages' familiesAke's loved ones advised to express emotions, stick together.
By JEFF PARROTT
Tribune Staff Writer
LaPorte businessman Jeffrey Ake looked fearful April 11 as he appeared on Arab television flanked by his masked, gun-toting abductors.
It was hard for any American to watch, especially for those in Michiana who realized once again just how close to home this Iraq war can hit.
But can you imagine how Ake's family felt?
Carrie Cooper can.
The Orange County, Calif., 29-year-old has been waiting more than six months for word on the fate of her father, 56-year-old Roy Hallums, who was taken hostage along with several others Nov. 1 in Baghdad's upscale Mansour district.
Police and witnesses told The Associated Press that at least 20 gunmen, some of them wearing traditional Arab robes and hoods, stormed the guarded compound where Hallums lived and worked for the Saudi Arabia Trading Co., which had contracted to feed Iraqi soldiers. After trading gunfire with guards, killing one, the gunmen were seen stuffing Hallums, Filipino Robert Tarongoy and four Iraqis into three vehicles and driving off. The Iraqis were later let go.
The kidnappers in January released a video in which Hallums, bearded and frail, says he was "arrested" by a resistance group because of his work for the American military. In the video he makes no specific demands on behalf of the kidnappers, but Cooper said the FBI has told her the group initially demanded the release of prisoners from the Abu Ghraib prison. They later replaced that demand with one for million.
To bargain or not
Cooper knows the U.S. government will never pay the ransom, but she clings to hope that somehow she'll see her father alive again.
Ake's captors have demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Before her father's capture, Cooper always agreed with Washington that negotiating with terrorists who kidnap will only encourage more kidnapping. She still believes that on a cognitive level.
But your emotions come into play when it happens to someone you love. She now says she would pay the million if she had it.
"Wouldn't you?" she said. "The policy goes out the window when it's your relative. But if we all made that exception there would be no policy, so it's a very confounding issue. I'm confused."
The FBI has asked the Ake family not to speak publicly about his abduction. Cooper said the bureau did likewise with her, her 25-year-old sister, Amanda, and their mother, Susan Hallums. But after about a month elapsed with no signs of progress in finding Hallums, the family decided they had more to gain from getting his story into the public eye whenever possible.
Nothing new in Ake's situationThere has been nothing new to report in the kidnapping of LaPorte businessman Jeff Ake, Drew Northern, spokesman for the FBI in Indianapolis, said Friday. Ake was kidnapped April 11 while working on a water treatment plant near Baghdad.
They have appeared on national media, including NBC's "Today Show" and CNN's "Paula Zahn NOW." Cooper also operates a Web site about Hallums' case at www.royhallums.4t.com.
"Publicity about it is a double-edged sword," she said. "I think it helps keep my dad alive because it results in more efforts to find him, but it's stressful for me."
Her pain sharpens whenever she hears bad news about other American civilians in Iraq, such as Ake or the six American contractors who were killed Thursday when insurgents shot down their helicopter, she said.
'Pain and heartache'
Despite the time that has passed, Cooper said life has not become any easier.
"I think about him constantly," she said. "This is unresolved. I'm just kind of stuck in this place. I'm in a limbo of pain and heartache. Then I think about what my dad is going through and it puts it in perspective. He could be being tortured right now, and I almost feel guilty saying, 'Poor me.' He could be in Baghdad with a gun to his head."
Linda Bodnar, a Madison Center social worker who specializes in grief therapy, said the families of missing hostages are in a tough spot.
"One moment they can be grieving, one moment they can be hopeful," Bodnar said. "There will be a lot of conflicting feelings there."
Cooper is interning as a therapist and working toward her doctorate in clinical psychology. If she could give Ake's family any advice, she said it would be to stay close and supportive of one another.
"This type of situation can be really hard for a family," she said. "It's been stressful and tough at times for our family. (They should) continue to talk about what they're going through, even though it's painful. It's healthy to express."
Cooper said it's also important to do things that help convey some sense of control over the situation, even if they are as simple as putting a yellow ribbon around a tree. Otherwise their feelings of helplessness can become overwhelming.
Hallums' family has made "FREE ROY" stickers, placed them on their vehicles, and are selling them on the Web site.
They designed a flyer offering a ,000 reward for information leading to Hallums' whereabouts. Her mother, who divorced Hallums about a year ago, has put her late mother's house in Memphis on the market and hopes its sale will generate the reward money.
After all, Cooper realizes time is passing quickly. Her father is likely to sicken without his daily cholesterol medicine. In the hostage video, he looked quite different from when she had last seen him in June in Memphis.
"In the video he states that his health is in a very bad way," she said. "He looks like he has aged 30 years."
Staff writer Jeff Parrott:
I appreciate the support we have received from the media and various news agencies. I also appreciate the public officials who are working on my father's behalf to ensure everying that can be done for him is being done.
First of all thank you to my Mom for being there for me through all of this and to my friends and others in my life that have helped.
Thank you to CNN and especially to Paula Zahn (on CNN), you are so approachable and kindhearted. We thank you for your continued support.
Thank you to The Honorable Senator Dianne Feinstein's Office for continuing to assist us. Especially to Peter Cleveland. Your help is invaluable to us.
Thank you to The Honorable Senator Barbara Boxer. You are wonderful and I love how you stand up for what you believe in. I always try to do the same.
Other Thank you's: Thank you to Brian at http://www.ironhorseradio.com for your support and mention of this website. Thank you to everyone at China Post 1 for your support. Their mention of this website and strong sentiments of support can be found at http://www.chinapost1.org/news.htm.
Also, thank you to Dr. Rusty Shackleford at http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/.
Thank you to Amy from the "Today Show". You are such a sweet heart. I love the "Today Show". You guys are all so great and you really appreciate and respect the people that you invite onto your show.
Fund raising for my Dad. Due to the horrid conditions my Dad is being held prisoner in please support our cause by making a donation for a magnet that tells my father's story and has his picture on it. Another way to get involved that is just as important, is by telling others about this site and making people aware of my father's situation.
The magnets are here and they look great! Just let us know if you are interested in obtaining one! We now have pay pal (if you haven't already noticed)!