| Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle |
by Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes, Keith Stansell with Gary Brozek
GLENN: You know, let me tell you about the dark side of the drug industry by introducing you to three guys. We have Marc, Tom and Keith ready to go? Hey, guys.
HOWES: Hey, good morning, this is Tom Howes, how are you, Glenn?
GLENN: Good morning. Is Keith here?
STANSELL: I'm here, Glenn. I'd like you to know one thing. In the six months I've only purchased two books and one of them was An Inconvenient Book. I love it, good job. I guess I'm a dissenter.
GLENN: Thank you. A guy who's been held over five years in the jungle and he comes out and he reads that. And Marc, are you there?
CALLER: Yes, sir, I'm here. It's nice to hear from you.
GLENN: First of all, welcome back, guys. You know, I can't believe in reading the story, in reading the new book Out of Captivity and seeing what happened how frightening what is happening down south really truly is. And FARC is operating in Mexico as well. They have incursions up into Mexico. This is the kind of stuff, America -- and I want you to listen to these three guys. This is the kind of stuff that we're dealing with at the border and South America, this is the kind of stuff that if Mexico spirals out of control, you're going to see this just south of our border, and it will affect the average person.
Tell me the story. I guess, who can just tell me the story real quick about, you know, the day you guys took off? It was February 13th, 2003.
HOWES: This is Tom Howes. We were basically heading out on a recon flight to check out some drug activity coordinates.
GLENN: In Colombia?
HOWES: Yeah, we took off out of Bogota, we were heading to a refuel site that we never made it to. There were five of us on board. We're in a single engine turboprop aircraft. On the final leg we had started the final dissent, we took off the oxygen mask and the engine gave up the ghost, wound down to a stop and we're in rugged, rugged terrain, mountainous terrain with no clearings at all that I could see. And I was trying to calculate, see if we could make it over the ridge and to our refuel point but that was hopeless. And then the pilot, he picked out a little postage stamp clearing on the side of a mountain with a cliff on the far end and we decided to head for that. Tried to do a restart; couldn't get the engine going again. We landed on that little strip and the pilot --
HOWES: Yeah, Tommy Janus did an excellent job bringing us in there, superb job. I got knocked out on landing, bloody mess. Keith broke a few ribs, pretty well shaken up, but we all got out alive due to Tommy's flying skills. But we landed almost on top of a group of Colombian rebels, a leftist guerilla group, the FARC. And we were taken captive almost immediately. Tommy Janus, the pilot, the other pilot and the one Colombian that was on board, a Sergeant Cruz were separated. We believe that tremendous tied to make a run for it and were shot to death. That basically kicked off almost five and a half years of captivity with this group just in the most basic living conditions and running from the Colombian military whenever they got close. So we had multimonth starvation death marches mixed in.
GLENN: You guys, the three of you, when you were captured at the plane, Keith, you had internal injuries. And then Marc, you guys all went on for -- you marched for a month drinking muddy rainwater and having no food at all?
GONSALVES: We had nothing but the clothes we were wearing. We were strip searched. We were lucky enough to get our clothes back. Everything else was taken away. And for 24 days it was a hell march. I mean, we were just in shock, first of all, thinking we were being marched to our deaths. You know, I was sure that we were going to be interrogated, tortured and killed. And it was just nightmarish conditions. It's something that I would not wish on even my worst enemy. It was horrible to see how we were surrounded by just this group of youth but ignorant youth, young kids who were pointing the rifles of their automatic weapons at us and it was something that really is something you only see in a movie. It was just so surreal.
GLENN: And speaking of movies, they don't -- they are so ignorant. I mean, usually leftist guerillas are. But they were so ignorant about America and reality that when you got to one of the camps, they watch American movies and one of their favorite movies was the Matrix and they really thought that Americans could bend themselves and slow downtime and dodge bullets, right?
STANSELL: They actually asked how we did that. One of the guards came up and said, how do you do that? With a kind of training do your special forces go through to do that? So it's a level of ignorance that you have to live with to experience, Glenn. I mean, it's not really possible to understand it unless you're immersed in it and it's quite shocking.
GLENN: Keith, because I watched the -- by the way, if you don't know this story, you'll remember this story from, what was it, a year ago now when there was a bogus, you know, Red Cross kind of moment where they flew this military -- or this Red Cross kind of like chopper down and took these guys out. And before anybody on the ground figured it out, they figured out that it was a rescue and that's how you guys got out. And I want to get into the controversy surrounding that because it's been driving me crazy. But when you guys first made the videotapes -- now this is over five years ago. When you were first making the videotapes the, you know, proof that you were alive tapes, Keith, I don't think I've ever heard any dad ever -- I mean, it was amazing to watch. You told your kids to be brave and that if you don't come home, it's okay. What was that like?
STANSELL: It was tough. You know, we were essentially in a box, we could surprise kind of ambushed here, the news of Marc's mom, the deaths of our coworkers that came looking for us a month afterwards and, you know, at that point, Glenn, I think what you need to do is get out the most important thing and I don't want to speak for Marc and Tom. I think it's fairly easy to say that for the three of us, our kids, our families, that was the most important thing. So if I could do anything at that point, I wanted to reach out to my children and let them know how I felt and give them at least one last piece of guidance as if I was never going to speak to them again. That's all I thought about doing.
HOWES: The second proof of life we did, was it last year -- or just year before last, Keith and Marc didn't want to speak. They didn't want to build any propaganda for the FARC, but I did speak on that one and just because it was very important to get a message out to my family because the family looms up huge in situations like that. I kept this going basically.
VOICE: But that was -- we were literally in a situation where we never knew for sure if we were going to live to see them again and that's something that was constantly looming over our heads.
GLENN: You guys were kept in -- you were kept in cages for a while.
VOICE: Depends. We were kept in cages, we were kept in an open, you know, corral that's fenced off, we were chained to trees. I mean, I look at my neck every morning. I have scars from chains around my neck. Every day I get up and I look at that and I remember what happened to me in the jungle. But there were never good conditions.
GLENN: Have you guys, have you guys -- I mean, what is it like to be gone, to have gone through this for five years, come back, see the shape that your country is in today? I mean, when you guys left, we were still I think gearing up for the Iraqi war. You've missed all of this. Has the whirlwind stopped yet for you?
VOICE: This is like coming out of a time machine and for me it hasn't. The whirlwind, I haven't caught up yet. There's been so many advances technologically, so many changes politically. It's --
GLENN: What are the biggest changes?
STANSELL: The economy.
VOICE: That's true.
STANSELL: You know, Glenn, this is Keith.
VOICE: How about the price of gas.
STANSELL: Huge thing for us, we called what we lived in the Planet of the Apes. If you watched the movie, there's a lot of parody in that. The huge change that's happened for me since I've come back to the country is what are we doing as Americans today. It looks like everybody's looking for the government to save them instead of us saving ourselves and it's incredible. There's an unbelievable sense of entitlement that I never saw in our culture before. It's kind of scary to me.
GLENN: Amazing. Okay, hang on just a second. We're going to continue our conversation. The name of the book is Out of Captivity. The story of surviving almost five years with leftist rebels in the jungle. And you are not going to believe. The escape, it almost was blown, the cover was almost blown, and they almost didn't get out because they were like, "Wait a minute, hang on just a second." But also the controversy afterwards will make blood shoot right directly out of your eyes. That's coming up in just a second.