3,414,240 minutes held hostage.
In 83 days, Robert Levinson will become the longest held hostage in United States history.
I can’t even fathom that it has been six and a half years since my father, Robert (Bob) Levinson, was kidnapped as he was leaving Kish Island, Iran, after a business meeting. I remember the day that I found out he was gone. I received a call from my brother David, who was home from college on Spring Break. It was Dad’s 59th birthday, Saturday, March 10th, 2007.
David had called to find out if I had spoken to Mom that day. It was one of those rare days that I had not yet spoken to her on the phone. I could tell that something was wrong from his voice. I told him no and I asked him why he wanted to know. He said that Mom was really quiet – unusually so – and seemed to be acting a bit different. He then told me that she had gone to a family friend’s home and she was unsure when she might be home. She never did this without an explanation. I then had Dave put my sister Sue on the phone. She said the same thing and that she was worried but she was trying to keep it together for our younger sister and brother, Samantha and Doug. I told Sue and Dave that they were doing the right thing and that to keep calm for them. None of us knew what was going on, but we knew it had to do with Dad. I told them to call me if they found out anything.
I immediately hung up the phone and called my husband, Randy. Randy had just left to meet up with friends for dinner. I remember my heart racing, I was physically shaking, and I said to him, in between sobs, “Please come home. Something has happened to Dad.” Without hesitation, he said, “I am on my way.”
This was not the way it was supposed to go. All seven of us Levinson children were preparing to meet our parents in Orlando, Florida, to visit Disney World in honor of Dad’s 59th birthday. I had made Dad a gift. I had painted him a picture frame at a local pottery place to commemorate the trip. It was red in color with little Mickey Mouse Ears all over it. It said, “It’s my 59th Birthday and I am going to Disney World!”
I still have that empty frame, waiting to put a picture in it to give to my father.
The last time that I spoke to my dad was on February 28, 2007. My son was then just four months old and I called my mom’s cell phone; I was completely run down and exhausted from lack of sleep due to the baby. My mom was actually driving Dad home from the hospital as he had just had a colonoscopy. I was upset on the phone and, after I spoke to Mom, she handed the phone to Dad, who always seems to have a way of calming his kids down. He said, “Stephanie, listen to your mother. She knows what she is talking about. She has had seven kids.” So even though he had just had a medical procedure done, my father wanted to talk to me and reassure me that everything was going to be okay. I won’t ever forget that conversation.
Today, six and a half years later, so much has changed.
I now have two children, an almost seven year old son, Ryan, and a four and a half year old daughter, Grace. My father has met and held Ryan, but he does not know that Ryan is severely affected by autism. Our family struggles greatly because of this due to Ryan’s difficulty in communicating and his many medical issues. Ryan is the center of my world and every day I fight for him to get medical attention, services, and therapies. My dad will be so proud of the way Ryan has overcome more obstacles than I can count, and how he continues to do so every day.
Grace knows of her Grandpa Bob from pictures and she has seen his hostage video. She makes sure to pray for him every night by saying, “Please God, take care of Grandpa Bob and help him get out of the desert.” She asks me questions about him: “What if Grandpa Bob doesn’t know who I am? How will he know me?” I once made reference to the fact that “bad guys were keeping Grandpa Bob from coming home.” She then asked me, with some trepidation in her voice, “Are there bad guys in real life?”
Unfortunately, there are bad guys in real life and they are holding my father. The thing is, I don’t know why they continue to hold him, but not ask for anything in exchange for him. Our father is not dangerous, he has not committed any crimes, and he has a heart of gold. They people holding him must know that by now.
Most days, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I wake up in my own comfortable bed. I feel guilty that I get to get up, have a cup of coffee and choose what I want for breakfast. My children wake up and I have the freedom to hug and smother them with kisses. I get to kiss my husband good bye before he leaves for work. I am free to watch television, go to the gym and grocery store, and connect with friends and family on Facebook.
My father, Bob Levinson, has none of these freedoms. He is sitting in a cell somewhere with no outside contact. He cannot communicate with his family, not even with a telephone call. He cannot choose his breakfast – in fact, I don’t even know if he receives breakfast. He has no basic human rights.
I know that my father is still staying strong, but how long can someone last under these conditions? I worry about him every day.
Since I was a little girl, I have always idolized my father. He is really the most amazing man. I have always felt as though he was meant for great things; that he would change the world. I trust that this whole situation is part of God’s plan and that it will all work out, but to be honest, I am getting very impatient with God.
Bob Levinson will become the longest American hostage on November 26, 2013, surpassing Terry Anderson with this milestone. We do not want this to happen. Every day that Bob Levinson is held captive is another day that he misses out on so many family milestones. He has two grandchildren on the way, who need to know their Grandpa Bob.
If this were your father, grandfather, husband or friend, you would be screaming from the roof tops to anyone who would listen. I feel like our family’s screams have gone unheard these past six and a half years. It is time to pull out the mega phones. It is long past time. We must tell the world that we won’t stand for one of our own to be held hostage.
It is a time for outrage: Bob Levinson must be allowed to return to his family.
Dad, if you are able to read this, know that we love you, we miss you, and we will never give up looking for you so that we can bring you home.