The Jill Carroll Story, Chapter 2: A Spy with a Homing Device

By Jill Carroll; Peter Grier | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Jill Carroll Story, Chapter 2: A Spy with a Homing Device


Jill Carroll; Peter Grier, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


When Jill Carroll was nearly 4 years old, her family held a picnic at Kensington Park, a beach and lake recreation area outside Detroit. At one point, her mother, Mary Beth Carroll, realized that Jill had disappeared.

Mary Beth turned around and saw a strange man walking away, his arms extended as if he were a fork lift. His cargo was Jill, who was lying on her back, screaming and punching.

When Mary Beth caught up to him, the man said he thought the little girl was lost. Only later, after the shock had worn off, did she realize he might have been trying to abduct her daughter.

At least she fought, her mother thought.

Mary Beth Carroll took some comfort from this memory after her daughter was seized in Baghdad. Jill would be terrified, Mary Beth believed. But she would not cower.

Mary Beth, a retired high school teacher, lives in Evanston, Ill. On the morning of Jan. 7, she was in Minneapolis visiting her parents.

Her cellphone rang at 5:30 a.m., rousing her from sleep. A woman from the State Department was on the line. She was sympathetic but direct.

"Steel yourself, Mrs. Carroll," she said. "Your daughter has been abducted and her translator killed."

Mary Beth called Jill's twin sister, Katie, and other family members, then quickly showered and dressed.

An hour or so later, Marshall Ingwerson, managing editor of the Monitor, reached her. Calmly, Mary Beth told him that Jill could think on her feet and was probably smarter (with an IQ of 140) than her kidnappers.

Mr. Ingwerson thought Jill's mother was incredibly strong and was trying to comfort him. But she was really trying to comfort herself.

The first day, she thought she'd never sleep again. But she was so on edge that her body became exhausted. Jim Carroll, Jill's father who lives in North Carolina, experienced the same phenomenon. The whole ordeal was grueling, but even on the worst days, sleep came quickly for most of the family.

- P.G.

I spent my first full day of captivity sitting in a plastic chair in the second-floor bedroom of a house in Baghdad, while the sound of gunfire echoed around me.

I kept thinking, it's just Baghdad, that's the way it is. But the shooting, which had begun the night before, went on all day. Some of it was close.

Around dusk Abu Rasha, the No. 2 in charge and owner of the house, came into the room. He looked exhausted.

"I'm very, very tired, all day I'm fighting with the soldiers," he said. Then he made a ggggg-ggg sound, in imitation of an automatic weapon.

He sat down on the bed and sighed.

"They're right here. They're very near," he said. "Why, Jill? Why are the soldiers here? Why are the soldiers so near here?"

The question was an accusation.

I realized he thought I was somehow telling the U.S. military where I was. For my own safety, I needed to make him see I was very upset by that idea.

"I don't know! I don't know!" I said, my voice rising.

"You don't have a mobile phone?" he said. "Maybe in your hair?"

I ripped off my head scarf and shook my hair loose. This was completely inappropriate behavior that would normally have deeply offended a Muslim man as apparently devout as he, but I was desperate.

His hands went through my hair, checking my scalp for whatever he imagined I might have hidden there. Finally, he was satisfied. He left the room.

I collapsed into the plastic chair and started to cry, silently, afraid he would be angry if he heard me.

But suddenly he returned. He rushed over, grabbed my hand, and knelt next to me.

"I'm so sorry. No, Jill, don't cry. I'm so, so, so sorry," he said, emphatically. "No, no, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm your brother."

He was overwrought. Why should he care if I was upset? He'd kidnapped me, after all.

I knew I had just learned something important, something that might help me get through whatever was to come. …

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