Grief that words could express

William Lowther May 5 1980

Grief that words could express

William Lowther May 5 1980

Grief that words could express

Most of them were called in the early hours of the morning by the U.S. state department's “crisis centre." Some of them had to be tracked down in Europe where they were busy drumming up support for their plight. But for the families of the U.S. hostages in Tehran the news was grim. And as the details of the aborted rescue bid came to light, the shaken and shocked relatives, having lived through months of grinding fear and tension, were in for even more heartache.

One thing the Iranian students holding their husbands and sons captive had been clear about was that any attempt to save

them would result in their death. Understandably, the reaction of the families to President Jimmy Carter’s lone-hand gamble was everything from impatience to devastation. Barbara Timm, still in Tehran after breaking the president’s ban on travel to Iran and meeting with her captive son for 45 minutes, was blunt: “I am angry that our

president would do something so absolutely stupid. I have met the students who are holding the hostages and I trust them. I trust them more than the president.” The brother of one hostage interviewed on tele-

vision echoed the feelings of many: “It was an incredible bungle. It’s amazing that they are so apt at fouling things up. I can hardly believe it.”

As news filtered through from Tehran that government officials were asking the militants to refrain from doing anything rash, the families had little to hold on to but hope and the thought that the hostages still remain a useful pawn to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. “I am frightened,” said Dorothea Morefield, whose husband, Richard, is a foreign service officer who served as consul general at the embassy. “We are all frightened. We don’t know what the situation is going to be. We have to wait and see. We have to hope.” Others, like Louise Kennedy, whose husband is being held, were concerned that the captors might take punitive measures such as cutting off correspondence with the families. “That would be a great blow to us,” she said.

A question being asked by the families, which will probably remain unanswered until after the crisis is over, is whether Carter knew of some impending threat to the hostages that he was seeking to avert. As Morefield put it: "To make this decision to go in at this time he must have been very worried that something was about to be done to the hostages. Only he has the information. ’ ’ William Lowther