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Life As Hostage’s Family Marks Fifth Year of Captivity

September 12, 1991

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) _ Today’s fifth anniversary of the kidnapping of Joseph Cicippio comes as his family waits for his Lebanese abductors to respond to Israel’s freeing of Arab prisoners.

Cicippio’s family plans to mark the day with a private ceremony this afternoon held here with support group No Greater Love, according to his brother Tom.

″I hope this is the last anniversary we’ll ever have to go through,″ Tom Cicippio said Wednesday, as his phone rang constantly with relatives and former hostages calling about the actions by Israel and the affect on Americans held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.

Tom and his older brother Tony tried Wednesday to keep their hopes steady, remembering last month when the Revolutionary Justice Organization - which claimed to hold Cicippio and another American, Edward Austin Tracy - announced it would release one of the two. After waiting for news, they learned that Tracy was freed.

Joseph Cicippio was abducted as he walked to his job as comptroller at the American University of Beirut. He turns 61 on Friday.

Tom and Tony sat at the kitchen table, while Tom’s wife Fran jumped to answer the ringing telephone, which has been the focus of family life since Joseph became the fourth American hostage in Beirut on Sept. 12, 1986.

One call came from former Iranian hostage David Jacobsen. Another was from Cicippio’s sister, Helen Fazio, who is growing weak from cancer.

″She’s excited and had to go rest,″ Mrs. Cicippio reported. ″She’s a good soldier. She’s got the will to survive until Joe’s freed.″

They talked of the difficulty in calling Joseph’s wife, Elham, a secretary at the American Embassy in Beirut. Telephones there sometimes don’t work for eight or nine days, while the phone in Norristown seems never quiet, Fran said.

Each ring raises hopes, Tom said, so he never unplugs the telephone.

He hates to leave the phone and his house, even for an errand, and refuses to take vacations lasting more than a couple of days.

″I’d rather not take a real vacation. I’d rather be close by in case something develops,″ he explained.

But brother Tony said the daily chores of life can’t wait for his brother’s return.

″The world doesn’t stop. But still, you think, will anything happen this day?″ he said. ″I’ll be glad when this is all over and we can get back to routine.″

The brothers tried to evaluate the outcome of Israel’s actions, how the Arabs might respond, and whether Joseph might be released in time for his birthday, once the cause for great family parties.

The news Wednesday was exciting, but after several false alarms, Tom said, ″we don’t pin our hopes on our hostage 100 percent. As long as a hostage is released ... Our turn will come.″

If nothing happens, if they have to wait for their turn, Tom said he’ll just change the numbers on the signs in his yard, marking the days of captivity for each American hostage.

Should the kidnappers heed the Cicippios’ pleas for a birthday release, Tom has a suitcase ready to fly to Germany, where freed American hostages are taken.

″I’ll take him in my arms and look to see that he’s alright. I’ll wait to tell him of the changes in the family,″ the birth of three grandchildren and the deaths of a son and a sister, Tom said. ″We’ll have time for that later.″

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