Nigel Brennan released by captors
Last year I was at home on a Sunday when I got a call from one of our journalists.
“There are reports Nigel has been kidnapped in Somalia.”
I didn’t believe the news at first. Not Nigel. Not someone I know. This is a mistake – or maybe it’s a joke.
Unfortunately, it soon became clear that it was true.
As a journalist, the past 15 months have been emotionally complicated.
This was a story, a big story.
As our team got together that Sunday, we joked that we would be having a beer with Nigel one day soon and laughing at the fact his photo was all over our front page.
But as the days turned to weeks and then months with no news, the idea of having a laugh about the story soon wore off.
The concern for what was happening, the information, or misinformation we were hearing became our biggest concern.
As the local daily newspaper, we made the decision that while we could not report on the situation – due to the families’ wishes, lack of information and stern warnings from the Department of Foreign Affairs that any reporting would jeopardise Nigel’s case – we did the only thing we could think of to show people that we cared about Nigel, his family and the story.
We published a daily count of his days as a hostage.
We never missed one.
Somewhere along the way a few days got added in, which was a disappointing error, but the fact still remained the same – we published Nigel’s face every day he was kept hostage – all 462 of them.
The response from the community during this time has been surprising – from people who know Nigel, people who had met him through his work and people who didn’t know him at all.
People would often ask what was happening or if there was anything they could do.
Unfortunately there was not a lot to say, and little that could be done. As a former colleague, it has been difficult to sit back and just wait.
A few months ago, I was approached by Nigel’s parents about helping them to publicise a fundraising event.
I excitedly agreed to help in any way possible.
Finally there was a way I could help.
The fundraiser, held a few weeks ago, was a success.
But more than that, it was so great to get together with other people who knew Nigel, or his family, or just wanted to show their support.
When I heard the news yesterday morning, my first thought was, “finally”.
Happiness, excitement and relief were a few of the emotions that washed over me.
Very soon after, the journalist in me also kicked in and I was raced into work to help plan our coverage for today.
It was fantastic to speak to everyone yesterday and hear their excitement at the news.
And it was great to be able to go all-out on our coverage that he was finally free.
For 15 months I have been praying for Nigel’s safe release and for his family as they have gone through this horrendous ordeal.
Today, my thoughts are still with Nigel and the Brennans, as they go through the final stages of getting him home again.