Before freelance reporter James Foley was brutally murdered last week by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), he was forced to read a propaganda statement in the video the terror group titled “A Message to America.”
His final words in the video — very likely under great duress and fear of torture — were to denounce his family and his government, which he called his “real killers.”
But Foley’s genuine message to his family was smuggled out of his prison cell about three months prior.
On Sunday, the Facebook page that had supported Foley through his captivity shared his secret message, which a fellow hostage committed to memory in June and dictated to his mother Diane soon after he was released.
This wasn’t the first time Foley had been taken captive. He had been held 44 days by Gaddafi forces in Libya in 2011, and with that experience, he knew there were many people back home working hard to win his release in Syria.
“In my darkest moments,” he told a class of journalism students in 2011. “I still feel that love.”
U.S. Special Operations Forces attempted to rescue Foley and the other hostages being held by ISIS earlier this summer in a large operation near the militant stronghold of Raqqa. The soldiers came under heavy attack and killed a number of fighters, but were unable to locate Foley or the approximately 20 others being held.
This is Jim Foley’s letter (via Free James Foley):
Dear Family and Friends,
I remember going to the Mall with Dad, a very long bike ride with Mum. I remember so many great family times that take me away from this prison. Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart.
I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.
Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports. We have played games made up of scraps found in our cell…we have found ways to play checkers, Chess, and Risk… and have had tournaments of competition, spending some days preparing strategies for the next day’s game or lecture. The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help. We repeat stories and laugh to break the tension.
I have had weak and strong days. We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year.
I think a lot about my brothers and sister. I remember playing Werewolf in the dark with Michael and so many other adventures. I think of chasing Mattie and T around the kitchen counter. It makes me happy to think of them. If there is any money left in my bank account, I want it to go to Michael and Matthew. I am so proud of you, Michael and thankful to you for happy childhood memories and to you and Kristie for happy adult ones.
And big John, how I enjoyed visiting you and Cress in Germany. Thank you for welcoming me. I think a lot about RoRo and try to imagine what Jack is like. I hope he has RoRo’s personality!
And Mark… so proud of you too Bro. I think of you on the West coast and hope you are doing some snowboarding and camping, I especially remember us going to the Comedy Club in Boston together and our big hug after. The special moments keep me hopeful.
Katie, so very proud of you. You are the strongest and best of us all!! I think of you working so hard, helping people as a nurse. I am so glad we texted just before I was captured. I pray I can come to your wedding…. now I am sounding like Grammy!!
Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home. Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life.
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