Valley Forge Christian alum rescued in Somalia

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Jessica Buchanan Jessica Buchanan Jessica Buchanan Jessica Buchanan

One of the two aid workers rescued by Navy SEALs in Somalia attended a religious college in suburban Philadelphia and "fell in love with Africa" while doing student teaching in Nairobi, the head of the school said Wednesday.

The Rev. Don Meyer, president of Valley Forge Christian College, said everyone at the small school is thankful their prayers have been answered with the announcement that 2006 graduate Jessica Buchanan, 32, had been rescued, along with Poul Hagen Thisted, a 60-year-old Dane. The two were working with a demining unit when gunmen kidnapped them in October.

"Ever since Jessica was captured, we all as a community have been praying for her safety and for her safe release," Meyer said. "The priority is just how grateful we are that she is safe."

The family had asked people at the school to keep quiet about the case while authorities tried to negotiate Buchanan's release, Meyer said. Now, he said, the school wants to offer its "deep gratitude" to the people who worked to free her.

Buchanan was an elementary education major at Valley Forge Christian College, which has about 1,100 students, and had done a student teaching stint at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi as part of her course work, Meyer said.

"She fell in love with Africa," he said. "She could hardly talk about Africa without tears in her eyes."

Her family did not immediately comment, but Meyer spoke with them and the said Jessica appeared to be in good shape.

Jessica and Hagen were rescued by SEAL Team 6, the same elite group that killed Osama bin Laden last year.

"They are amazing," Meyer said. "It's good they're on our side!"

RELATED: Read more about the rescue

President Barack Obama approved the mission Monday. On Tuesday, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, gave the president half a dozen updates on the movement of forces and the progression of rescue operation.

About two hours before Obama was scheduled to begin delivering his State of the Union address, Brennan told him Buchanan and Thisted were safe and in U.S. hands.

After delivering his address, Obama called Buchanan's father. In his statement Wednesday, Obama said he told John Buchanan "that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family."

"The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice," Obama said. "This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people."

Biden had high praise for the special forces. "It takes your breath away, their capacity and their bravery," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." ''These guys and women are amazing."

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