Editor's note: Two years ago Thursday, freelance journalist Austin Tice of Houston was captured in Syria. He was working for McClatchy, The Washington Post, CBS and other media outlets. McClatchy, the parent company of the Star-Telegram, asked Tice’s parents, Debra and Marc Tice of Houston, to share their thoughts. The Star-Telegram's Jared Christopher made a video documentary to commemorate it.
On Monday night, we celebrated the 33rd birthday of our son Austin. Together with those who know him best, we laughed about Austin’s childhood misadventures, reflected on his many accomplishments, and shared our fondest memories of the most devoted son, brother, uncle and friend any of us could ever ask for.
Today, we mark the second anniversary of Austin’s disappearance from somewhere outside Damascus, Syria. Since that day, we have had no contact from Austin or his captors.
So for every funny story and happy memory, there were the myriad questions that have haunted us for the last 17,520 hours. What is Austin’s life like today? Is he safe? Is he eating enough? Is he alone? Can he see the sky? How does he pass the time? Does he know how many people are praying and working for his safe return? When will we once again be able to share not just the momentous occasions or once-in-a-lifetime events he has missed, but also the small daily moments – the everyday joys, challenges, blunders and blessings – that family is all about?
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Our greatest hope is that these questions, and the prayers of Austin’s family, friends and supporters around the world, will soon be answered. Sadly, that happy day has yet to come. So we write today in the hopes that Austin will see these words, hear our voices and receive three simple messages we wish to impart as he turns 33.
The first is that we love you and couldn’t be prouder of the man you are today. From your earliest days as an Eagle Scout, a top student, a terrific athlete and a caring friend and neighbor, we knew you were a special kid. When you put your Georgetown law education on hold to follow your journalistic dreams, we knew you were extraordinary. When you did so to help people in one of the most dangerous regions in the world, we knew you were one in a million.
You saw suffering and put your talents to work to stop it – risking life and limb to share the personal and political stories people need to hear to stand up against violence and atrocity. Few people would put so much on the line for the well-being of strangers half a world away. To think that we raised a man like you fills us with pride.
The second is that your compassion, loyalty, discipline, courage and commitment remain an example not only to your parents and your six younger brothers and sisters, but also to people the world over. At a time when it’s so easy to focus on what’s wrong with the world, you are a constant reminder of what’s right with it – that there are still people out there who refuse to just throw up their hands and give up on problems that seem unsolvable.
We see signs of your strength and inspiration each and every day. We see it up close in the calls, letters and cards we’ve received offering every possible form of assistance and support. We see it from afar in the humanitarian acts of others seeking to end the misery and grief felt so vastly in so many corners of the globe. We even see it in ourselves – epitomized by our abiding faith and steadfast belief that we will see you again.
Third, we want you to know that your family, friends and people you have never known are working nonstop to bring you home safely.
From hard tips about your possible whereabouts to simple prayers for your well-being, we have received an overwhelming show of support from every continent on the planet. We are eternally grateful to every person who has reached out – and we fully expect even more people to come forward in the coming weeks and months. The piece of information that will bring you home safely is out there, somewhere. Rest assured that we will find it.
Austin, please know that we love and miss you more than words can say. God willing, you will be back to blow out the candles when you turn 34.