Video: Ex-hostage: ‘Iran is indelibly etched in my mind’

  1. Closed captioning of: Ex-hostage: ‘Iran is indelibly etched in my mind’

    >>> 30 years ago this week, 53 americans tasted freedom after being held hostage in iran for more than a year. time that at least one tells me he is still trying to reclaim.

    >> good evening. the american embassy in theran is in the hands of students tonight.

    >> it is insulting to see them being held at prisoners.

    >> the crisis began when iranian students seized the u.s. embassy taking dozens hostage after the u.s. refused to deport the shah. they were held captive for 144 days. he was one of the hostages.

    >> i really felt after the first several months in captivity, that we would never get out.

    >> what was the dimmest moment, the darkest day you had?

    >> after we were disbursed all over the country many of us reis reasrea s asemabled in a prison. steel walls, bathrooms full of cameras to watch us day in and day out. it just seemed that the humiliation would never end.

    >> but an end to this long national nightmare would come on january 20th , 1981 , a new presidency begins. while america's agonizing ordeal is finally over after 14 months --

    >> did you know that ronald re reagan had be elected?

    >> they had the notion that regan had freed us and it was carter.

    >> on the morning of the 20th, we woke up to open the door and there was no guard there. somebody said okay, pack up, you are leaving.

    >> once we crossed the border, the turkish border, we broke out champagne and started to have a good time and we knew we were actually free.

    >> freedom that came with a cost still felt today.

    >> there was no feeling of freedom like the one that i had 30 years ago.

    >> rosen and many of his fellow captives are marking the 30th anniversary at a reunion this weekend at the military academy at west point.

Bruce Laingen
Hans Pennink  /  AP
Former Iranian hostage Bruce Laingen stops to talk with cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on Friday.
updated 1/21/2011 1:58:52 PM ET 2011-01-21T18:58:52

Former Iran hostages reuniting 30 years after their release were greeted by a long line of cheering, clapping cadets Friday, echoing the rousing hostage reception here in 1981.

Fourteen former hostages visiting the U.S. Military Academy for a weekend reunion kicked off the day with a short walk into a stiff, snowy wind past a cordon of 4,400 shouting cadets. Some of the hostages took time to shake hands with the camouflage-and-fleece-clad cadets, thanking them for the grand welcome.

"I can't describe it. It's a little too much. We're all overwhelmed," former hostage Bruce Laingen said with a big smile as he walked into the first of a series of private meetings with cadets and faculty.

The hostages, escorted by family members and one widow, will mix in panel discussions about their experiences with socializing over the long weekend. Also at the private event are five veterans of the ill-fated military rescue mission that ended in a helicopter crash that killed eight U.S. servicemen.

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Fifty-two hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, after 444 days of captivity.

Story: Freed hostage 30 years later: 'Iran will always be with me'

The hostages then touched down on U.S. soil at nearby Stewart International Airport and rode buses to this historic Hudson Valley academy on a route lined with yellow ribbons and thousands of cheering people. The hostages, unaware that Americans were closely following their ordeal for more than 14 months, were stunned by the emotional welcome.

The newly released hostages spent several days at West Point, connecting with their families and mixing with cadets.

"Walking in here, things are coming back," said Dr. Paul Needham as he craned his neck to take in the high ceilings of the academy's cathederal-like mess hall. "The blur was 30 years ago; things moved so quickly."

The former hostages appeared to relish the chance to revisit the scene of their homecoming. Laingen even wore a yellow ribbon that read "FREE THE HOSTAGES." Cadets gave another exuberant cheer for the former hostages and the rescue mission veterans at lunch.

Col. Mark McKearn, class of 1981, recalled escorting a pair of hostages to the mess hall 30 years ago. He said he was peppered with so many questions from the former hostages about his daily life as a cadet that he never got to finish his filet mignon.

"I expected to see this thousand-yard stare from somebody who'd been in captivity for 444 days, and they had great energy. They were very inquisitive," said McKearn, who oversees cadets at West Point.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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