Joshua Boyle: Freedom a ‘bizarre combination of elation and depression’
The last 48 hours for Joshua Boyle and his family sound like a movie. After being held captive by the Haqqani terror group for five years, they were rescued by the Pakistan Army in a blaze of gunfire.
Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman and their three children landed in Toronto last night and the family is now in Smiths Falls at Boyle’s parents’ home.
WATCH: Canadian Joshua Boyle makes a statement after arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Friday evening.
In an email exchange with Global News, Boyle described what the last two days have been like.
“A truly bizarre combination of elation at being free and away from those who brutalized us for so long,” he wrote. “[And] depression realizing just how much damage we and our children have suffered in these five years that we hadn’t even realized.”
Boyle and his wife, pregnant at the time, were traveling through Central Asia in 2012 when they were kidnapped.
With many onlookers asking why anyone would travel to such a dangerous place, Boyle, who had travelled to Central America previously to do humanitarian work, insisted he was there to help.
“I was in Afghanistan helping the most neglected minority group in the world, those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where no NGO, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help,” he said in a statement after landing in Toronto.
Boyle is also refuting reports that he refused to get on a U.S. military jet to leave Pakistan.
“Actually I just got off the phone with my father and he’s got the Canadian government booking airline tickets for the whole family, we’re going home!” …somehow gets twisted into “Boyle is refusing to accept U.S. plane, what does this really mean,” he wrote
WATCH: Family eagerly awaits Joshua Boyle’s arrival in Canada
Coleman gave birth to their first child in captivity, and had three more. Boyle says his captors killed one of his children when she was an infant. He also says his wife was repeatedly raped.
The surviving children are each adjusting to freedom different, according to Boyle.
“The eldest child is Najaeshi Jonah, he seems remarkably happy to be free,” he wrote. “He’s actually been talking about the abstract idea of “No Bandee” (no prisoner) for more than two years.”
Boyle says his eldest son went to bed around 6am, after very, very thoroughly exploring dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, bamboo, paper clips and “his personal favourites, the Roomba and the Post-it Notes.”
WATCH: Joshua Boyle plays with son at parents’ house
The couple’s middle child has had a different reaction.
“He is the most distressed psychologically still, it seems every new object reminds him of frightening associations; pens remind him of ketamine injections, cameras remind him of hostage videos, opening and closing doors trigger some level of childhood PTSD,” Boyle said. “But he is also the most compassionate of the children, always seeking ways to try and help his brother and sister – reminding us to feed the youngest, asking Najaeshi Jonah to fold his blankets, trying to “tidy” the rooms.”
Their youngest child, a girl born just four months ago is adjusting well.
“Ma’idah Grace…seems overwhelmed to have discovered there are more than just five people in the world – but she’s pretty happy about it and loves the attention and love that is being lavished on her.”
WATCH: Parents of Joshua Boyle describe hearing his voice: ‘It was just Josh again’
Though the horrors the family faced in captivity were many, Boyle credits their unity for helping them survive.
“The truth is, though I recognise that we are blessed to have been able to survive that ordeal…it’s a mystery to me how it happened,” he said. “I think it’s probably an issue that each of us forced ourselves to be as sane, compassionate and patient as we could…for the sake of the other four in the room, so it just reached a strange equilibrium by which we each survived by the efforts, not of ourselves, but of the other four in the room.”
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