Brian Keenan was an Irishman working in Beirut when he was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad. He was released four years later, on August 24, 1990.
I will never forget his words when he was released. He described being a hostage as like "a man hanging by his fingernails over the edge of chaos, feeling his fingers slowly straightening".
I wonder if he spent time in prison, planning his release soundbite? I'm sure I would have. That's not intended to sound cynical, especially as I read An evil cradling, the book he wrote about his experiences, and was moved by his raw honesty and brutally truthful descriptions of his life as a hostage.
I remember when he said those words as he arrived back in Ireland. It was a crafting of words that felt like a sword, stabbing sharp into my mind. And as a journalist it made me remember all the times I'd asked the inane questions that journalists do, interviewing people who have gone to hell and back: "So, how do you feel, are you happy to be home?" Usually I've been met with less than honest replies from people saying what they thought I wanted to hear. Here at last was a raw, shocking statement that really put things in perspective. I wish I'd been there to hear it in person.
This picture by Jann Arthus Bertrand of tourists at the Iguazu waterfalls in Argentina, made me think of Brian Keenan, and also made me think about how thoughtless we as a species can be. We often wander, oblivious to the precipice below, forgetting to be thankful for every moment that we are still breathing.
(The picture is from Jann Arthus Bertrand's free wallpaper collection. Really worth a look)