This Man Spent 5 Years as Hostage, Then 'Thrived'

Joe Cicippio explains why the experience didn't ruin him

By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 12, 2014 3:24 PM CDT

(Newser) – Joe Cicippio spent five years often chained to a radiator, a captive of Hezbollah in Lebanon. His only companions were his masked kidnappers and one or two other captives. But he's thrived since his release in 1991, and now Cicippio, 83, reveals how in an interview with NPR. “I don't get mad. I don't believe in holding grudges. I don't have any animosity toward anyone," he says. The Pennsylvania native was just one of two dozen American men kidnapped in Lebanon in the 1980s. All suffered mentally and emotionally, some were killed, and others who were released never recovered. Cicippio credits his positive outlook on life before captivity with keeping him from a similar fate.

In 1986, Cicippio worked at the American University of Beirut when he was attacked by a group of men and dragged, semiconscious, to the trunk of a car. He awoke in a kitchen, and would be moved 20 times during his captivity. He communicated little with his captors, and was escorted to the bathroom and fed from the floor. After he was released, Cicippio suffered from a slight stammer after years of near-silence, had lost 70 pounds, and learned on his flight home that his son and sister had died—yet his character was unchanged. "When I got out, the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with me. My wife said I was the same as before. And I just wanted to get back to my life. So I did,” he tells NPR. Today, he is the CEO of a technology company and a drum major in a marching band, and he often travels with his Lebanese wife back to Beirut, where they have a home and a boat.

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