Viking Saga

Susan Forest Shares Memories of Time Held Captive in Iran

ELHS long-term sub and former journalist recounts tales of danger and adventure

Eve Slemp

Long term substitute Susan Forrest spent the beginning of her working life as a journalist, writing stories for a living. In a twist of fate, a coverage trip to Iran landed her in the middle of one. As a child, Forrest was told she could move others with her writing. She fell in love with journalism and being a TV reporter for stations like NBC, ABC, CBS, and writing for CNN.
“It gives you access to the world,” Ms. Forrest said. She interviewed numerous influential people, including former president Richard Nixon. In 1991, following Iraqi Kurdish Civil War, tens of thousands of Kurdish Refugees fled to Iraq and Iran to reach asylum. Men, women, and children were starving. “There was an important story that needed to be told,” said Ms. Forrest. Americare sent a team of U.S. doctors and donated food and medical supplies to those people in need. Ms. Forrest persistently pushed her way into covering this story as an intrigued journalist and reporter, looking for an enticing story. After getting clearance from a humanitarian group to travel and report in Iran, Forrest left on her two-day journey in a military cargo plane with only boxes of food to sleep on. “I literally had been up for two days, then up a good few more,” said Ms. Forrest.

Not 30 minutes after exiting the cargo plane, when Forrest and her camera crew were taking footage of the Tehran Airport, police sirens started to wail. “I didn’t get what was happening to us,” said Ms. Forrest. Almost all of their footage was confiscated, save a few images, and she, along with the doctors and crew, were put into a room under watch for several days. “We were detained,” said Ms. Forrest. “We weren’t fed or told anything for a few days.” Their passports were confiscated and they were locked in a room, guarded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards with machine guns. “We could have easily lost our lives,” said Ms. Forrest. At the moment, as someone young, determined, and sleep-deprived, Ms. Forrest didn’t realize how much her life was in danger. As minutes turned to hours, and hours turned to days, finally, they were released from captivity.
“I should have been scared. I should have been crying,” she said. The Islamic guard had returned their passports. They were not permitted to complete their mission, but they were fortunate enough to be returning home. “Journalists get killed in the line of duty,” Ms. Forrest said. By this time, she had been a
journalist for 15 years. Ms. Forrest realized how much of an impact her job had on the stress of her family.
She loved writing features and loved helping people, but there was a price to pay. Her dad was a huge inspiration for her, as he wrote feature articles for the New York Times. She knew she wanted to pursue
writing because of her father. “I lost my dad when I was young,” Ms. Forrest said. “I didn’t want my kids to grow up without a mother.” Her experiences in Iran made this truth clear to her, and she knew it was time to move on.
Ms. Forrest got her degree in teaching and has taught at colleges and other high schools within the state, including Wallingford, Windsor, Farmington, and Lebanon. Despite her giving up a career she loved, Forrest fell in love with her new career as a teacher.

“We are really lucky to have such a well- qualified teacher,” said English CIL Ryan Ainscough. As a coworker, Mr. Ainscough is thoroughly impressed with Ms. Forrest’s background and the unique perspective she brings to her AP class, subbing for Melissa O’Neill.

“She is always on the ball and is down to learn new things all the time,” said senior Ayush Mishra. He looks up to Ms. Forrest as a teacher because of her adaptiveness, easy accessibility, and determination to solve
a problem. Her identity as a journalist is not gone, though. Ms. Forrest has been working on an ongoing documentary about the MS St. Louis, which was a German ocean liner carrying Jewish refugees who were denied asylum in Cuba and the U.S. in 1939. This story is close to her as her mother was a Holocaust survivor. Through many ways, Forrest keeps her journalism life within reach.
“It is an important story to pass on. I hope sometime in my life I finish it,” said Ms. Forrest.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: