A Bristol mother who never lost hope got the news Wednesday that she’s waited more than five years to hear: that her son, held hostage by rebels in a South American jungle, had been freed.
“I was just ready to jump out of my skin and bang my head against the wall to see if this was a dream or what. It’s just unbelievable,” Bristol resident Jo Rosano told Al Jazeera television from a hotel room in Paris.
Colombia announced Wednesday that its military rescued Marc Gonsalves and two other U.S. military contractors who have been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia since their drug surveillance Cessna plane crashed in 2003.
George Gonsalves, the rescued man’s father, said he was mowing his lawn at home in Hebron when a neighbor raced over to tell him the news.
"I didn't know how to stop my lawnmower," Gonsalves told The Associated Press. "I was shocked. I couldn't believe it."
Colombia said that Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell and 12 other rescued hostages, including a former Colombian presidential candidate, were being taken to a military base.
Rosano told Al Jazeera that she was flying back to America to see her son again.
“I guess we’re going to go to San Antonio, Texas, where the Americans will probably be brought,” she said. “I can’t believe that in a few hours I will see my son.”
"It's been a real rough ride," George Gonsalves said. "I've got to give him a big hug when I see him."
Rosano said she had “been crying and crying and crying” since hearing the news from friends Wednesday.
Gonsalves’ wife, Shane, did not return calls to her Big Pine Key, Fla. home.
Gonsalves is 35, married and has three teenage children – a daughter, Destiny, and two sons, Joe and Cody, according to the U.S. Southern Command.
Gonsalves, who played Little League as a child and wrestled in high school in Hebron, joined the U.S. Air Force and became an imagery interpreter. After eight years in the military, he joined a private contractor that was working with the Defense Department to eradicate drugs in Latin America
Rosano said Wednesday during her television interview that her dead father gave her words of comfort a couple of weeks ago.
“My father came into my dreams and told me your son would be coming home,” she said.
But Rosano, who is recovering from cancer, said she “always knew” that Gonsalves would return.
Rosano said she and other hostage family members were in Paris this week for a rally planned this weekend at a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty near the Eiffel Tower.
“God works in mysterious ways is all I can say,” Rosano said.
Gonsalves and the other two Americans were contract employees of California Microwave Systems, a subsidiary of the defense giant Northrop Grumman, a company that had a Defense Department contract to gather intelligence on the rebel-held, cocaine-growing jungles of Colombia.
When their plane crashed, a rebel group in the area captured them after executing the pilot and a Colombian guard who had also been on the plane.
Only nine months into their ordeal as hostages, Stansell told a visiting journalist that he had never been through anything worse.
"You sit, day in and day out, and I look at my two friends here, and at the end of the day we think to ourselves, we're alive another day. Will we be alive tomorrow? Do we have a future? Can we see our families?" Stansell said.
It turns out, as Rosano proclaimed time and again for the past five years, that the answer is yes.
Here is the television report that includes Rosano's comments:
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