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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Captured Westport NYT Journalists Back Home

By Dave Matlow

UPDATE Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, the two Westport natives held in captivity in Libya for six days earlier this month while photographing the fighting there for The New York Times, have returned to the United States with Hicks spending some time recuperating in Westport.WestportNow.com Image
The New York Times website tonight featured video interviews with the freed journalists who on Thursday will appear on other national media to tell their stories about their capture. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

Hicks arrived in New York last Thursday and was in Westport from Saturday until returning to New York today, his sister, Westporter Darcy Koskoff, said. Addario said she arrived in New York on Tuesday and plans to come to Connecticut this weekend to visit her mother Camille who lives in Fairfield.

Both will appear in national media interviews from New York on Thursday. (Click here for a report on their “Today” show appearance and here for the video.)

“It’s difficult for me to put my family through what I do,” Addario said today by telephone from New York. “I feel bad a lot. I grapple with that one. But this is what I do.”

She said her most vivid memories of captivity included the chaos at the checkpoint where they were captured, the repeated physical abuse, including being punched in the face, and the sexual assaults.

“I was repeatedly groped,” Addario said.

Asked how she feels now, she replied: “Bittersweet. Our driver is still missing. It’s been a traumatic few weeks.”

Hicks also spoke to WestportNow tonight by telephone from New York. His sister Darcy earlier described her homecoming with him.

Hicks disclosed that his journalist girlfriend, Nichole Sobecki of Plesantvillle, N.Y., on assignment for Boston-based GlobalPost, was also in Libya when he was captured. The two live together in Istanbul, Turkey.

She was in Benghazi and the two talked multiple times of day, he said.

On the previous day, she had told him that troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi were heading in his direction and that he should get out, he said.

Hicks said most journalists heard similar reports and were pulling back, trying to flee to the east to get to the Egypt border. The day he and his colleagues were captured, his girlfriend made it out of Libya, he said.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate said he was surprised their release came so quickly amid U.S.-led air strikes.

“Journalists were a liability for the Gadhafi troops,” he said. “They had to watch them, feed them, etc. They were too much to take care of. We were sent out without criminal trial unlike past journalists.”

Reflecting on his experience, Hicks said: “I value the things I have in life more now because of how easily I’ve seen life go away.”

He said he was “happy to be home” and grateful for the support of family, friends, and The New York Times.

Darcy Koskoff said her brother came down with the flu on Sunday in Westport. “He slept a lot for two days,” she said. “His throat was hurting and he was coughing.”

She said Hicks has had no time to replace his camera or computer. And he was still wearing the same moleskin pants he had on when captured with fellow Staples graduate (1991) Addario and two other Times journalists, Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell.

They were taken into custody on March 15 while covering the conflict between government and rebel forces in the eastern city of Ajdabiya.

Hicks and his sister shopped in downtown Westport with no one recognizing him and walked along the shoreline during his time here, she said.

“Tyler and I walked on Compo Beach this weekend,” she said. “It’s so beautiful. I appreciate it more than ever now. I asked Tyler if he thought about this (Compo Beach) when he was in captivity and he said ‘I didn’t have time.’”

Darcy said she thought her brother might not want to talk about what happened to him and the others, but that was not the case. “He was open,” she said. “The details were grueling beyond what The Times touched.”

She added: “Tyler got if off his chest, holding nothing in.”

She said her brother is “poised and ready to go back to what he does” but “will stay away from combat for a while.”

She said her brother feels his captors were trying to break him. “Tyler does not want to see them win,” she said. “If he stops what he’s doing, they will have won.”

Before coming to Westport, Hicks spent several days at his father’s New York apartment after flying to New York via Paris from Tunis, where they were taken by Turkish diplomats upon their release.

Addario, whose husband Paul works for the Reuters news agency in New Delhi, spent three days on the Goa beaches in India with her husband before flying to New York.

She said after spending this weekend in Connecticut she plans to fly to Los Angeles to see her sister.

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Posted 03/30/11 at 10:49 PM  Permalink



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Whew !!! Good to have you home, safe and sound. I can only imagine how relieved your Mom and Dad must be. Take a break and re-group.
Saw this morning on the Today Show, good job!!

Jack Farrell

Posted by Jack Farrell on March 31, 2011 at 02:59 PM | #