About The Book
Along with 125 of his colleagues, Paul Green faced threats of beheading and death from the Hanafi Muslim terrorists who violently captured the B'nai B'rith building on March 9, 1977. Men and women were shot, stabbed, beaten and assaulted as the attack gained momentum. Across town, from a second attack, the future mayor of Washington, Marion Barry, almost died from a shotgun pellet near his heart and a young reporter, Maurice Williams, was killed. A third location, a mosque, was also attacked with multiple hostages taken.
Washington's first major terrorist incident, with its anti-Semitic vitriol and explosiveness, left more than 150 lives hanging in the balance. With Washington in chaos, the future of all the hostages was in jeopardy. It was the first time local and federal law enforcement authorities faced such a terror attack in our nation's capital. When three Arab ambassadors became involved in the rush to try and find a way to save the hostages lives, it became an international event. But for the hostages, it was 40 hours of terror, pain, dismay, enlightenment and hope.
A Continuing Journey
A little over a year and a half ago, I set out on a journey to write a book on my experience of being in the first major terrorism incident in the United States that occurred March 9-11, 1977. Very soon after the event, I captured my thoughts and had 25 pages of impressions of what transpired. I utilized those impressions to give speeches and also develop a management program. The positive reaction to that program and the fact many of my former colleagues were getting older or had passed away, gave further impetus in reaching a decision to write a book—a personal account and where possible, include the stories of others involved. As I reached out to a number of former colleagues, there were those who agreed to meet after 34 years and I am thankful for their willingness to do so. Others were reluctant and I am respectful of their decisions. I also realized that even though I was intimately involved as a hostage, there were many aspects of the siege I was not totally familiar. It was fun utilizing knowledge I gained on conducting research from my undergraduate degree in history from the University of Miami. In the summer of 1971, I was required to take a research class. I had a wonderful professor who had just returned from a sabbatical of doing research in Europe. His wisdom and teaching were helpful in the research I conducted for writing the book.
The journey the last year and a half researching, interviewing individuals, and writing have been an incredible experience. Our trip to Switzerland to be with Ambassador Zahedi was truly memorable and a once in a life time opportunity. Even if I never attempted to write the book, meeting the ambassador and discussing his perspectives and role and witnessing his life’s work was special. The same can be said for my visit with Patrick Mullany who was one of four FBI experts on terrorism and hostage negotiation back in 1977 and was intimately involved in the negotiation for our lives. Visiting Patrick in California was enlightening and at times sobering.
In addition to the book which needed to have a reasonable finite length, I developed this website to include a number of stories that were part of my hostage experience. As the book was written and edited, it was determined some of these background stories might have interrupted or confused a reader’s journey in experiencing and being with us during the siege. It also gives me an opportunity to further introduce individuals who were named in the book. I am also hopeful that if former colleagues who read the book but I did not have an ability to interview, will want to speak with me and I can add their thoughts to this website. In this way, Forgotten Hostages will be more than a book. It will have a living aspect to it. For those who have read the book and have any questions, I will strive to personally answer them.
My work at B’nai B’rith took me around the country. I met and interacted with numerous people who held leadership positions with B’nai B’rith and were stellar members of their community through their vocations as attorneys, doctors, teachers and businessmen. One relationship I always cherished was with a young attorney in Atlanta named Stan Lefco. Stan was a leader in Atlanta B’nai B’rith and we worked on numerous programs together. When I came to Atlanta I stayed with Stan and his beautiful wife Beth Davis Lefco at their home. One of the saddest days I ever recall was getting a call from Stan’s law partner that Beth, who had been ill with brain cancer, had died. Years later my work with the scrap recycling industry allowed me to meet Beth’s father Elliot who owned a scrap operation. We talked about Beth and it reminded me that we live in a truly small world.
B’nai B’rith Convention
Prior to President Ford’s arrival on the morning of his speech, a number of us working the convention received special lapel pins to wear that allowed us to be in the ballroom prior to it being sealed off by the Secret Service from the general attendees at the convention. We had to be in the room by 7:00 am and the session wasn’t until mid-morning. After the room was sealed, special dogs were brought in to search for explosives. The podium he was to use was installed and an agent carefully inspected every wire leading into the podium examining them with a small flashlight. I wasn’t sure why he was doing that since they brought the podium with them. It was a short drive from the White House and we were waiting for President Ford in a room with a private elevator from the street level. When the door opened, the number of people on the elevator was astounding-- aides, personal assistants to the President, speech writers and a host of others. When the President was introduced by B’nai B’rith’s President David Blumberg from Atlanta, I was standing close by in a section where all of his aides and speech writers were sitting. Also sitting close by were Admiral Lukash whom I recognized as the President’s personal physician, and an Air Force officer who had a large briefcase chained to his wrist. I actually got to see the “nuclear football” that contained the codes for the launching of missiles. Viewing the President’s physician and the black box had a huge impression. The President couldn’t take a ride across town without all of these people accompanying him. To this day, the magnitude of those symbols remains with me. There was also a funny moment at the start of Ford’s speech. All of his aides had a copy of his speech and they were going to follow him as he presented it. As he started, he said he was happy to be with B’nai B’rith—but he mispronounced it and it came out as B’nai B’rith. There was an audible groan among the people following the speech, an exchange of glances and then a comment among two of the people with one saying they had practiced how to pronounce the organization’s name for two hours and Ford still missed it. As this was occurring, one of Ford’s Secret Service detail was trying to get the phone number of Harlene Dodis my assistant. Ah, human nature at work, even for someone with the responsibility of protecting the President and who carried a gun.
After seeing than Governor Jimmy Carter at the 1976 B’nai B’rith Convention, I had the pleasure of being with him at a Mortgage Bankers Association convention almost 30 years later. As he was being introduced at the general session, the two of us were standing alone behind the stage looking at the large screen viewing a video depicting his life. When you’re behind the screen, you’re looking at the video, backwards. As the video played, I mentioned to him though I never lived in Georgia, I did have an opportunity as a young man to vote for him. He smiled at me and told me it was very nice to say. At that moment, I thought how lucky I had been to have met a number of U.S. Presidents and other public people. I also thought of my Dad who died in 1990 at age 66. He was a Seabee during WWII and his war experiences had a tremendous impact on his life. He was a high school graduate having never attended college and though he didn’t have a formal higher degree, he was an avid reader and history buff. As a contemporary of John F. Kennedy and both serving in the Navy, he was immensely proud when Kennedy was elected President in 1960. My brothers, sister and I we were raised as Kennedy democrats. Carter was also a Navy man and I’m sure my father would have loved to have had the chance to be standing with me next to Carter that morning. I’m sure it would have made his day.
photos • articles • video
Paul Green Enterprises is committed to the protection of your privacy.
Collection of Information.
1. Paul Green Enterprises Web site collects certain information about visitors, even when they are not logged in. Paul Green Enterprises may record your IP address, the URLs of the Web sites and pages you visit (before, during and after your visit to Paul Green Enterprises Web site), the times and dates of such visits, information about the computer hardware and software you use and other information that may be available. Also, Paul Green Enterprises may place "cookies" on your computer to recognize you on return visits to enable Paul Green Enterprises to enhance your browsing experience, as well as to collect background information about you. You may adjust your browser settings or use other means to prevent cookies from being placed on your computer, but doing so may result in reduced functionality and a less personalized browsing experience.
2. Paul Green Enterprises may ask you to provide certain background information about yourself, including your name, contact information, the organization you come from and certain other information that Paul Green Enterprises may use to identify you. If you choose not to provide such information, you may not be permitted to access certain Firm Web site features, content or services.
Use of Information.
1. Paul Green Enterprises uses the information that it collects about you to improve your browsing experience by personalizing Paul Green Enterprises Web sites to your interest, and also to help Paul Green Enterprises select content and services that you may find interesting and useful. Information about the content you visit and services you use may be used alone or in conjunction with information collected from other users to help Paul Green Enterprises tailor Paul Green Enterprises Web site and its other products and services to better suit the needs and interests of you and other users.
2. Information that you provide may also be used as part of Paul Green Enterprise’s effort to keep you informed about events, and selected products and services that may be of interest to you. In some cases, Paul Green Enterprises may contact you with information from carefully selected third parties, but Paul Green Enterprises will not provide information to third parties for such purposes. In other cases, your information might be shared with a third party pursuant to a process that contemplates such sharing but which you knowingly initiate.
3. Paul Green Enterprises reserves the right to disclose any information that it obtains through Paul Green Enterprises Web site to appropriate governmental or regulatory authorities, if required by law or any governmental agency.
Transfers of Information.
Diplomatic Night at the Convention
One evening, where Secretary Kissinger spoke we had a diplomatic night with numerous embassies represented. There was a 3 tier dais on the stage for the honored guests. As the evening was getting underway, a very debonair looking gentleman approached me. He had a great accent and said he needed help. He pointed towards the stage and said he really needed to be seated up there. He gave me his card which indicated he was associated with the South Africa Embassy. No one from the embassy had responded to the invitation to participate and thus, there was no seat for him. I could tell he really wanted to get up on stage. I arranged for background chairs and told him where to sit. Later that evening, I noticed him at his seat on stage and he looked like a little kid who had just entered a candy store with a big grin on his face. A small lesson on how a little kindness can go a long way.
Fate and a Hard Floor
Just before the siege occurred, I had been ill with the flu and had been away from the office for a number of days. I had literally just returned to the office the day the siege occurred. Also, in the fall of 1975 I had injured my back and was laid up for about 10 days (they certainly treated back injuries differently 34 years ago). After the incident, I religiously do back exercises everyday to keep my back loose. I couldn’t do the exercises for 40 hours as a hostage, though I never felt a thing in my back lying on a hard cement floor for the 40 hours. It also occurred to me my shoulders hurt so much from my hands being tied behind my back, I didn’t give my back a single thought..
Ariel Barak Imber
During my research I learned of a number of colleagues who has passed away. One of them was Errol whose experience I covered in a chapter. Errol left B’nai B’rith International and accepted a job as the Executive Director of District 7 which was one of the independent districts that made up the structure of B’nai B’rith. The office had been located in New Orleans for years and was being relocated to Dallas. After Errol settled in, I went to Dallas to team up with him for member visits in Dallas and San Antonio. I also had a chance to see the lovely home he and his wife Barbara had purchased. While in Washington, Errol was associated with the adult education area and I always admired his intellect, mild manner and compassion for people. When I tried to locate him a year and a half ago I learned he had passed away. I finally determined that Errol must have started utilizing his Hebrew name for his first name and thought he might have immigrated to Israel. As I continued my research, I found that he had lived in a number of cities after Dallas, including Little Rock. On September 12, 2011, I found Errol, now known as Ariel. I did not know that he had served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and had remarried to Annabelle Imber Tuck who was an accomplished attorney and the first woman to serve on Arkansas’s Supreme Court. Here’s what I discovered on the University of Arkansas Little Rock website: He obviously impacted the lives of the students he taught and his colleagues and still lives on in their hearts 10 years later.
Ariel Imber died November 13th, 2001. He taught Judaism, Religious World Views, and Introduction to Philosophy, and was particularly interested in, and supportive of, Native American Indian culture. Ariel had a joy of teaching that was contagious. Always helpful and friendly, he is missed every day in Department and by us and the students he so loved to teach. “I saw the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shapes of all shapes as they must live together like one being.” (Lakota-Sioux Vision Quest).
Dr. Daniel Thursz
Dan was born in Morocco and moved to the United States with his family in 1941. Throughout his professional life he displayed a high quality of social work leadership in the fields of higher education, social work practice, and government and private voluntary organizations. In the 1950s, he received a bachelor's degree in political science from Queens College in New York as well as master's and doctorate degrees in social work, both from Catholic University. He served in the Army during the Korean War. He was a program director at the DC Jewish Community Center and worked at B'nai B'rith until the early 1960's. From 1966 to 1976 he was Dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. The next ten years were spent as the Executive Vice President of B’nai B’rith International. In the 1980's and 1990's he was on various councils on aging , among them the White House Conference on Aging's Policy Committee, and he served as chairman of the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations. From 1988 to 1995 he served with the National Council on Aging and was named president emeritus. He was also past president of the International Federation on Aging. He also served as Secretariat of the Generations United, a coalition of over 80 national organizations concerned with intergenerational work. Dan passed away on January 18, 2000 at 71. At the time of his death he was a social work professor at Catholic University and directed its Center on Global Aging.
My dear friend and mentor Harold Brenner remained with B’nai B’rith a short time after I left in 1978. He had a long affiliation with the organization first as a volunteer and then as a national executive working for Al Elkes in the membership department. His passion for the organization and his collegial manner won him many friends across the country. He had this wonderful deep bass voice that would have served him well as a radio announcer. In fact, at one time he donated his time and voice in reading for the blind. Harold was upset with the changes that were occurring at B’nai B’rith in the last 1970s and when his good friend Al was removed from his role as the national membership director, Harold’s passion just couldn’t be sustained and he left the organization he truly loved. Through a relationship he built through his work at B’nai B’rith with Bill LeVine, the founder of Postal Instant Press and a highly successful businessman, Harold joined PIP as its national franchise director. His strong selling skills allowed him to have a second successful career. Harold and I stayed in contact and I would meet him for lunch in Silver Spring, Maryland near his office for lunch about once a quarter. Unfortunately, he developed prostate cancer and fought a valiant fight against the disease for a number of years. Harold loved baseball and he and his wife Sydelle would head to Florida in February and catch as many spring training games as possible. In 1988, at the age of 66, my friend Harold passed away. I still think about often.