Kidnapped by Terrorists: One Boy’s Story of Escape

What should have been a tranquil family vacation in the southern Philippines turned into an unending nightmare.

By Susan Svrluga from The Washington Post
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine October 2013

celebrating escape eating food

AP Photo

Freedom for One

Two and a half months went by, then one day the terrorists told Gerfa she would be freed. She and Kevin tried to share their last meal together, but fear robbed them of their appetite.

Gerfa was forced down the mountain to a river and onto a boat. As they pushed off, she thought, They will dump my body in the ocean. After an hour or two, the boat docked.

“You’re free,” the militants said. A ransom had been paid.

She stumbled toward houses, pounding on doors, pleading for help until she found someone who could understand her. At a police station, she sat alone in an office past midnight, until two FBI agents arrived. When they called her by her name, she burst into tears. “I felt safe.”

Heiko was at home when Gerfa called. Both of them were crying, relieved that she was free but furious that Kevin hadn’t been released after some of the money had been paid. Gerfa refused to return home without her son. She stayed in Manila to negotiate with the terrorists.

Heiko tried to raise more ransom money. He liquidated the family’s assets and withdrew all the money from their retirement accounts. There was an urgency to his actions: The terrorists said if they didn’t receive more money within days, they would cut off Kevin’s head.

Next: “I couldn’t stay there any longer” »

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