(PHOENIXVILLE, Pa.) — The father of rescued American Jessica Buchanan, who flew home to Pennsylvania on Monday, told ABC News “today’s the big day.”
John Buchanan told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview before Jessica’s arrival that his daughter and his family have held up during her captivity and rescue, but the grueling wait is almost over.
“We’re doing well as a family, and Jessica, we have not seen her yet — so today’s the big day,” he told Sawyer. “We’re all extremely excited about that. Obviously, I mean I can’t really express it in words what it’s going to be like to see her…We’re just really looking forward to a great reunion.”
Jessica Buchanan left from Sigonella, Italy, a Pentagon official said, and flew in a commercial jetliner to Pennsylvania.
Her father told Sawyer that when he sees his daughter Monday, he just wants to tell her face to face “I love you…and I’m really glad you’re OK.”
“She’s a really unique girl and she’s strong and she’s motivated and she’s very resourceful and, you know, we’re all just really proud of her that she came through this the way she did,” he said. “The reports we’re getting are that she’s doing very well. She’s physically on the mend and psychologically she’s just done great and she’s in a good frame of mind.”
Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, of Denmark, were abducted Oct. 25 by a band of Somalis while on their way to the airport in Galcayo, located in central Somalia. Both were working for the Danish Refugee Council’s Danish Demining Group, and had just finished a training course for Somalis when they were taken and held for ransom.
Over the three months of captivity, concern grew over Buchanan’s deteriorating health, which was described as possibly “life-threatening,” and a “window of opportunity for mission success” presented itself, according to Pentagon spokesperson George Little.
Buchanan and Thisted were rescued on Wednesday by SEAL Team 6, the same group involved in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden last spring.
The mission to save the aid workers was daring and required the SEALs to parachute from a high altitude to within a few miles of the hideout. Once the SEALa reached the encampment, they killed all nine heavily armed kidnappers and completed the rescue.
“We just can’t thank them enough for risking their lives,” John Buchanan told ABC News. Buchanan also thanked President Obama for “having the fortitude to make the decision to okay the action” and the FBI for their work behind the scenes from the moment the kidnapping took place.
“The people who work for the FBI are just special people, they’re top-notch people,” he said.
In Somalia, Buchanan served as a regional education adviser at the Danish Demining Group, a division of the Danish Refugee Council, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Her father said they joked while she was in captivity “that she may have even been teaching those guys English or something, you know her captors, that’s the kind of person she is.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Ian Kerner, CNN