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At Airport, Turner’s Daughter Says: ‘I’m Going To See My Daddy’

October 22, 1991

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ The 4-year-old daughter of freed American hostage Jesse Turner scampered about the Boise Airport today waiting for the plane that would take her to a first meeting with her father.

″I’m going to see my daddy,″ said Joanne Turner, born five months after Turner was kidnapped in Beirut by Shiite Muslim terrorists nearly five years ago.

Turner’s Lebanese wife, Badr, kept her eye on Joanne while recalling the brief telephone conversation with her husband from Syria shortly after 2 a.m.

″He is very happy, anxious to see her,″ Mrs. Turner said. ″I said to him, ‘I will see you soon.’ He wasn’t believing it. He said, ‘Is it true?’

″It was like he was on another planet,″ she said.

Mrs. Turner and her daughter, along with Estelle Ronneburg, Turner’s mother, and her husband Eugene, boarded a midday flight to Chicago, where they would catch a connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany. They expected to arrive in Frankfurt shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, local time, and then will take a short trip to the military hospital in Wiesbaden.

Their joy followed a day of uncertainty Monday when there were conflicting reports on whether Turner was free. At one point, Mrs. Ronneburg said the situation was ″tearing me up inside.″

″When it happens like this, it takes the thrill out of it. We’ve waited so long,″ she said.

Today, after seeing a film of her son on the news, Mrs. Ronneburg said he looked good.

″He was a little weak, I could tell,″ she said. ″His voice didn’t sound quite natural, but I understand their captors don’t like them to talk, so they learn to whisper a lot.″

Mrs. Turner’s thoughts were on how she would handle the first meeting with her husband in 57 months.

″I will look at him only,″ she said.

″I won’t be able to talk, and I will be waiting for his question first,″ Mrs. Turner said. ″I will be seeing how he looks at his daughter for the first time.″

On Monday, an editor at the Beirut bureau of Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency said the agency reported Turner had been freed by the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine. But Syrian officials cast doubt on that report, and the White House said it had no evidence of a hostage release.

Mrs. Turner received a call from the State Department at about 2 p.m. confirming her husband was free. Then news reports cast doubt on that.

At 4:30 p.m., a State Department official told Mrs. Turner her husband Turner was apparently in the custody of the Syrians.

Then, about five hours later, the definitive call came.

Turner and a fellow American professor, Alann Steen, were abducted on Jan. 24, 1987. Two other people kidnapped at the same time have been released. Four other Americans, including Steen, and four other Westerners remain missing.

″I want all the families of the other hostages to feel the same way I’m feeling now,″ Mrs. Turner said.

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