"It's been presented as one of the first acts of terrorism against the United States. I turned it into a spiritual retreat," says former American hostage, Kathryn Koob.
30-years ago, November 4, 1979, militant Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking control of the Embassy Compound and taking more than 60-americans hostage. 52 of the Americans would be held hostage for 444 days, including Iowan, Kathryn Koob, of Jesup. Katy Koob is now teaching at Wartburg College in Waverly. The former U.S. diplomat says she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Koob wasn't inside the Embassy when the students took control. But, they found her and returned her to the Compound, where she would be one of just two women held the entire 444-day ordeal.
Asked how she was able to cope with being a hostage for so long, she says, "You don't do it at 444 days at a crack. You do it sometimes 15-minutes at a time. Just the same way anybody deals with any traumatic situation-whether it's a terminal illness-a job loss. Fortunately, I didn't know it was going to be 444-days. It was another day and another day, and, as I say, another hour and another 15-minutes."
Katy says her deep-rooted religious background helped her get through it all: "Given my very pragmatic Iowa background, and growing up in the Lutheran tradition as I did, I had to take very seriously the command of Jesus in Luke: 6 to love your enemies. It took me 25 years, but I finally realized it was nothing I did. It's a gift-it's God's Grace that enables us to move beyond anger and bitterness and resentment."
Occasionally, the Iranians would let the world see some of the hostages on television. Katy provided hope and inspiration to everyone back home. On one occasion, she was singing the 3rd verse of away in a manger on her second Christmas as a hostage
"The hardest time was January 1st; the second January 1st," she says, "when I realized 1980 didn't exist. I had never had a 1980, except in captivity, and that was the most difficult day, and I'm not sure exactly why, unless it was that I realized I had lost a whole calendar year."
She always knew the danger was there. "Individuals from embassies were always in danger, and I went to Iran knowing I could be in danger, but, it was unlikely that a whole embassy would be held."
They were locked inside the U. S. Embassy compound 444 days, until President Reagan, on his first Inauguration Day, announced a deal with the Iranians, to release the Americans.
The hostage homecoming was nothing short of spectacular, and Katy Koob says that spirit must continue today, as another U.S. lesson learned.
"Right now, more than anything else, I am so proud of how our country, even if we have issues with the policy that has been made, still supports the men and women who are the foot soldiers; who are doing their work, and we're not trying to make them responsible for policy, no matter whether we think it's good or bad. And, so, if we didn't learn anything except to honor the people who serve our country as willingly and as well as they do, that was a lesson worth every minute."
Online Reporter: Ron Steele