Manassas Journal Messenger | Former hostage speaks to medical professionals

Kathryn Koob sleeps soundly most nights.

On all but two nights in the past 20 years, in fact, the waves rippling across Koob’s Iowan cornfields have rocked her gently to sleep and carried her to oceans away from the events of 1979. But a mind, even the most tireless, is allowed to slip.

Twice Koob, a retired 27 year veteran of the diplomatic service, has dreamt about the tumultuous events that unfolded the year when she and 53 other U.S. embassy staff members in Tehran were taken hostage at the height of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Before an assemblage of local healthcare professionals, Koob spoke Friday about her 444-day captivity. In her remarks, Koob, currently a guest lecturer at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, also addressed the multitude of mental health issues facing Americans returning from or confronting severe trauma.

The pragmatism instilled by her father, her willingness to accept and engage her situation, and particularly her strong Lutheran religious faith all contributed to her survival, Koob said at a luncheon presented by the Prince William County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Healthcare and Medical Professional Business Council.

A colleague once joked upon her release, she added, that they did not know how they raised Lutherans but however they did, “it was the Lutherans who came out in the best shape.”

And indeed, during her 14 ? months of captivity, Koob said she found solace in the Bible. Though difficult, to be true to her religious upbringing she even found it within her to love her enemies.

“Anger, hatred and resentment do nothing to help you recover,” she explained, though adding delving into such emotions are often easier than what is truly required — a movement away from this intense reservoir of animosity.

“It does not mean you forget it … but it does not drive your life,” said Koob, American Legion Auxiliary’s Woman of the Year in 2002.

By reinforcing protectors and a willingness to accept that circumstances are beyond a victim’s control, Dr. Barbara Solt said the legitimate goal of resiliency training should be not merely surviving but thriving and benefiting at the conclusion of the traumatic episode.

Solt, a fellow “cradle Lutheran” who holds a doctorate in social work, met Koob at a New York church meeting after Koob’s return from Tehran. While at Catholic University, Solt completed her dissertation on “The Resiliency of Survivors.”

Including extended family and close friends in honest, frank discussions and support groups during the traumatic episode and during recovery is also important, Solt and Koob agreed.

During the media barrage descended upon her family during the hostage crisis, the members of the press left no stone unturned or family member unbadgered. From curbside vantages points, camera crews trained their lenses on Christmas dinner, and reporters asked young nieces to tape record family conversations.

Trauma can even touch the youngest in a family, Koob said. She related that one perceptive niece, with all the precociousness of an 11-year-old, asked during the family’s ordeal if “Aunt Kate was dead yet.”

Victims must be willing to accept that often they can do little to nothing to better their situation, Solt and Koob also agreed. Allowing this resignation, the here-and-now becomes infinitely more valued, Koob said.

“Americans don’t deal with the past and we also don’t deal with the present either,” she explained. “It’s always the next vacation or next promotion when we’re not guaranteed anything but right now.”

A former public affairs officer and press attache, Koob authored “Guest of the Revolution,” an account of her captivity. In 1984, the work received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion.

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