Search This Site
News :: 'Guest' of the Revolution Kathryn Koob discusses Iran experience at Palace
· 2:28pm December 11th, 2012
In hundreds of interviews in the past 31 years, Kathryn Koob has answered thousands of questions about her 444 days as a hostage in Iran.
But the best question anyone ever asked her, she said, came from a young girl.
That question was: “Did anything you learn as a little girl help you when you became a hostage?”
Koob said she answered the girl, “Yes. Everything I learned as a girl helped me.”
Her parents, she said, taught her how that if she needed something to try to make it. Also, in church and Sunday School, she learned to rely on God.
Koob was a long-time teaching colleague of Vinton resident Frank Kruse in Newton before beginning her career in the Foreign Service and working for years in several countries. Kruse invited Koob to attend the showing of the movie “Argo” at the Palace, and then hosted a small party at The Pizza Ranch, where Koob answered many more questions and shared many more stories about her life in the Foreign Service, and the many places throughout the world where she has worked.
Koob cannot count the number of interviews she has given since being released on Jan. 20, 1981, after 444 days in captivity. Someone asked her about the most ridiculous question anyone had ever asked her. That’s when she spoke about the best question.
She recalls how several journalists were at a school where she was speaking, and she kept answering their questions – which were basically the same questions she had answered countless times before. But a young girl in the front kept raising her hand, and Koob finally called on her.
There is one question that Koob is so tired of answering that she calls it her “$25,000” question – which means she will only answer it if you pay her that amount. That question is: “Tell us about the day in the life of a hostage.”
“Read the Book”
Often, before Koob agrees to go to a venue to speak about her experience, she advises people to read her book first, and then come to ask questions not answered by the book.
Thomas Nelson Publishers repeatedly urged Koob to write a book about her experience in Iran, and how her faith in God helped her triumph.
“Writing is hard work,” she said during the party at The Pizza Ranch. “I told them no.”
But they kept asking and by the first anniversary of her release in January of 1982, Koob was well on her way to finishing the book.
The copy of “Guest of the Revolution” that belongs to the Vinton Public Library contains a 30-year-old folded-up newspaper clipping. A book reviewer for the Waterloo Courier called Koob’s book an “incredibly inspirational account of her ordeal.
The book, wrote reviewer Linda Kettner, “is appealing for several reasons: its crisp and remarkably polished writing style, its insights into a recent historical event and its intimate, first-person narrative delivery.”
In her book, wrote Kettner, Koob “manages to transform a potentially debilitating and tragic captivity into a triumph of Christian faith.”
During the events that led to the taking of the 52 hostages on Nov. 4, 1979, Koob had a chance to flee from the U.S. Embassy and take refuge with German diplomats. She, refused, however, saying that she needed to return to the embassy to take care of the people in her office.
“I guess that was the big sister and teacher in me,” she said.
Asked if she regretted not going with the Germans, who probably could have gotten her safely out of Iran, Koob said that for her family’s sake, if she had known how long of an ordeal it would be, she would have gone with the Germans. But, she said, she and her deputy had already committed themselves to returning and taking care of her office and its people.
Koob spoke to the audiences at the Palace Theater after the Monday matinee and before the evening showing of the movie, “Argo,” which deals with another part of the Iranian Hostage Crisis – the six Americans who were secretly slipped out of Iran disguised as members of a Canadian film company.
One of only two women held hostage for those 444 days – and the only surviving woman among the 52 hostages – Koob still receives many requests for interviews. The 30th anniversary of her release in January of 2011 was one of those occasions.
The release of the movie “Argo” was her most recent return to the spotlight.
“I had several people call me to ask if I thought the movie was accurate,” she said. “So I figured I better go see it.”
While the movie is indeed based on the Argo story, and how the fake movie company was set up to make a fake movie, there are many parts of the story that have been fictionalized.
“The kids – the people in their 20s – did not smoke and they did not talk like the actors in the movie,” Koob told her audience. Also, she said, the runway scene at the end of the movie was not at all like it was in Iran.
Yet, she said, the movie did a good job of representing many of the people she remembers working with. And yes, on the plane ride out of Iran, someone did find a bottle of champagne with which to celebrate their freedom.
“The only questions we had when we got on the plane were: Is everyone here, and is everyone OK?” The answers were yes, and yes. All 52 of the Americans held hostage for 444 days were safe, and all were able to walk onto the plane.
In Iran, Koob experienced anti-American and anti-western extremism, but also knew many people who wanted Iran to create a more moderate, more tolerant Iran. Some of those people – including an eye doctor who treated countless children for free – ended up as victims of the revolution, who were punished because they were perceived as enemies of Iran.
Life after Iran
Koob had already been to several countries before going to Iran in August of 1979. She ended her Foreign Service career in Australia, and retired to Waverly. She is frequently asked to speak in Iowa about her experiences, and the recent renewal of interest in Iran and the hostage crisis has resulted in many newspaper and radio interviews in the past few months.
Lego League: VSMS 7th grade Pink Chicks team invited to State
Vikes of the Week: Shelby Arp, Jessica Alderson