A Sweet Release
Anderson's passion for planning is born of those terrible years when both present and future were beyond his control. As the U.S. hostage held longest in captivity—2,454 days—he became a symbol of America's impotence in the face of Middle East terrorism. Now Anderson, 46, a former Associated Press correspondent, has written Den of Lions: Memoirs of Seven Years (Crown), a harrowing chronicle of his long imprisonment in the hands of the Islamic radicals who kidnapped him at gunpoint after a tennis game on March 16, 1985, in Beirut. In addition to being a deft analysis of the '80s hostage situation, Lions is a moving personal memoir and a tribute to Anderson's new wife, Madeleine Bassil, 43, the woman who waited steadfastly for his return.
Nearly two years after being reunited, Terry and Maddy still seem enchanted with one other. Anderson, a bearish figure, kisses his wife as she plops down on their living room sofa, draping his arm over her shoulder. Madeleine, slight and exotic, glances occasionally at her husband, as if to make sure he's still there. When Terry chides her about the shabbiness of the slipcovers, she protests, "But we bought these together before you were kidnapped."
During the first few weeks following his abduction, Anderson was chained flat on his back on a metal cot. Blind-folded much of the time, he was only allowed to use the bathroom a few minutes each day. "I hated being filthy," he says. "I spent six years in the Marine Corps, where it was drilled into you: Stay clean. If you don't, you're going to die."
Anderson was determined not to die, either physically or spiritually. A lapsed Catholic, he read from a Bible he was given and secretly fashioned a rosary from Arab worry beads. When conditions improved, he and his fellow hostage cellmates (including David Jacobsen, Rev. Benjamin Weir and Tom Sutherland) found myriad diversions. They discussed everything from favorite books and movies to the proper way to wire a house for electricity.
Although Anderson was never seriously injured, the guards would torture him mentally. At times, he was put in solitary confinement in a tiny cell for six weeks or more. The isolation "almost broke me," Anderson says. "I don't know what I would have done without the Bible. The struggle was to stay emotionally balanced—to not, as we used to call it, ride the roller coaster."
Meanwhile his fiancée. Madeleine, was on a dizzying ride of her own. The NBC researcher, who had met Anderson at a party in 1984, was pregnant with their child when Anderson was abducted. (He was still married to Mihoko, a Japanese woman with whom he had a daughter, Gabrielle, now 17.) As the Beirut native explains in her contributions to Den of Lions, there were long stretches with no word of her fiancé. "You become good at taking sadness and blows," Madeleine says. After her daughter, Sulome, was born, "I would buy her presents and say they were from her father," Madeleine admits. "I had to make her know that even though her daddy couldn't be with us, he still loved her."
Their 1991 reunion, for all its joys, was not without its difficulties. Two psychiatrists accompanied Anderson and his family to the Caribbean island of Antigua to help them readjust. His older sister, Peggy Say, 53, who gained national prominence as a hostage advocate, had to make adjustments of her own. She felt her brother wasn't grateful enough for her lobbying on his behalf. Anderson counters: "People at home built expectations of how wonderful things would be when we returned. And of course we came home as real people. Sometimes damaged people."
Anderson is no stranger to emotional damage. A child of alcoholic parents, he grew up with five siblings in Batavia, N.Y. His mother, Lily, a waitress, died in 1975; his father, Glenn, a truck driver, died while Anderson was a captive. Terry joined the Marines after high school, eventually working as a combat correspondent in Vietnam. Six years later he enrolled at Iowa State University and joined AP in 1974 soon after graduation. He became chief Mideast correspondent in 1983.
Anderson has now left journalism; his book advance and lecture fees are paying the bills. "I didn't want to go back overseas," he says, "And it's a good time to change my life." He and Madeleine wed last April; they're trying to have another child. Recently Anderson founded New York Renaissance, a grassroots nonpartisan organization aimed at reforming politics and government in his home state. Running for office may be on the docket, but for now, Anderson says, "If I could reach out to all those people in New York who have given up and focus their anger and disillusionment, maybe we can make a difference."
And what of his own anger? "I'm a Christian, and it's part of the contract that I forgive, no matter how hard it is," he says. Despite some lingering problems from years in captivity—fitful sleep, the habit of constantly pacing—Anderson seems remarkably healthy. And he is still stunned by his good fortune: to have survived incarceration and come home to a wife and child. "I don't think anybody can imagine what that feels like," Anderson says, "to know somebody loves you that much that they'll wait seven years."
TOBY KAHN in Yonkers