It has taken 21 years to come to terms with recounting the events of that one night in April – or maybe it was late March – in Lima, Peru in 1991.
That night when we got home after a normal day at school and the housekeeper mentioned to my mom that Sr. Humberto had not come home for lunch.
That night when my mom called my dad’s mom and found out that he had not stopped there for lunch either.
That night when after a handful of calls to folks my dad was supposed to have been with throughout the day, we realized that my dad had missed an afternoon meeting as well and no-one who my mom was coming in contact with had heard of him since about 10:30am.
That one night before cell phones when we quickly realized that basically my dad was missing. WHAT?!
I remember my aunt who lived two blocks from us came over to stay with my mom and help each other “think” where he could possibly be. I remember having dinner with my brother in pretty much silence. I remember at one point, following the regular school night routine of homework, shower, brush teeth and go to bed, it’s just that, I couldn’t sleep.
And then the phone rang. It was my dad – he announced his location (which was a few kilometers south of our house) and asked for my mom to come pick him up. By herself. I remember my aunt insisting (and she has a very strong personality) on riding with my mom. That my mom was too nervous to go by herself. That it was dark outside and she needed company. But none of that worked, my mom left. By herself. To go pick up my dad. In the dark.
It seemed an eternity before both of my parents walked in through the front door. As soon as I saw my dad and heard his voice I ran to hug him. I don’t remember if he looked disheveled or nervous or scared. All I remember is that I was beside myself with happiness because he was finally home!
That night in 1991 turned our worlds completely upside down. It’s almost as if we stepped into a dark and scary world. What had happened?
- On his way home for lunch, my dad stopped at the gas station where he always stopped.
- When he pulled out of the gas station, he quickly noticed two or three other cars surrounding him and blocking him on the highway.
- He quickly realized what was happening and floored it.
- He flew past the exit to our house and kept going south. Go go go go until he was able to leave those cars behind.
- He waited for nightfall and drove back to a friend’s house.
- He decided that he couldn’t drive his own car back to our house because they could have possibly been waiting at another familiar stop, recognized his car and try to catch him again.
- Then he called my mom and asked for her to come pick him up.
He was basically missing since 10:30am until about 10:00pm (it might even have been later than that).
Who were they and why did they want him? They were terrorists and they wanted to kidnap him.
Apparently he had been receiving threats from the terrorist group for quite some time. These were mainly phone calls, but they did have a face-to-face meeting at one point. They kept asking him for money which he would not give them. He was willing to give them land in the rain forest which they could manage and grow whatever they wanted to grow and in turn make money. But that was too much for them, they wanted cash.
Apparently in more than one occasion on one of his trips to the rain forest to the pig farm, he had found his pigs to be spray painted with this particular terrorist group's initials.
I don't think we went to school the next day after that one night. We waited for Pablo's First Communion which was already scheduled for the next week or two and then we left it all behind on April 26, 1991.