WASHINGTON — 'We have to maintain a sense of urgency.'
Long before the sun began to warm the pre-dawn chill, a limousine pulled up to the Watergate apartment building to pick up Eric Jacobsen. Minutes later he was taping a short interview for the "CBS Morning News."
From there, Jacobsen hurried to the local NBC station for a live interview on the "Today Show."
When he returned to the apartment, he still had time for a quick nap before breakfast. A few hours later, Jacobsen was on his way home to Huntington Beach after a whirlwind 48 hours of meetings in the nation's capital.
For Jacobsen, 29, the Washington routine has become tedious and tiring. But it is important to him and the other relatives of four Americans held hostage in Lebanon and two others missing in that war-torn country.
Jacobsen and nine other members of the hostages' families gathered again here last month to knock on office doors at the White House, Capitol Hill and Middle East embassies. It was their fourth trip, and they promise more until the hostages are safely released by their Moslem captors.
The families have tried to put aside their pain and frustration and devote themselves to keeping the plight of the hostages in the public consciousness.
"We have to maintain a sense of urgency. We want them (U.S. officials) to know that we want them to work more diligently than ever," Jacobsen said after the families met at the White House with National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter.
The four hostages are David P. Jacobsen, Eric Jacobsen's father and the administrator of American University Hospital in Beirut; Thomas Sutherland, the dean of agriculture at the same university; Father Lawrence Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest, and Terry Anderson, the Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press.
The university's librarian, Peter Kilburn, was kidnaped 13 months ago. His whereabouts and condition have never been known to U.S. officials. William Buckley, a diplomat, also was kidnaped, and it has been reported that he was killed. But the U.S. State Department has never been able to confirm that.
For relatives of the hostages, the mission is simple: Work constantly to keep the public aware of their plight.
"Right now I am more concerned with the news media. What happens if this isn't news anymore?" asked Tom Anderson, a New York City police sergeant and cousin of Terry Anderson.
Jacobsen said, "You also have to control your emotions. When we go talk to people, we have to be rational and reasonable in order to get our point across."
For Sue Franceschini, Jenco's sister, that is sometimes difficult. Since Jenco vanished in Beirut on Jan. 8, 1985, Franceschini and her family have had few clues about his fate. Sleepless nights are common for them.
Sitting in the Jesuit dining hall on the ancient, red-stoned Georgetown University campus, Franceschini said: "The long waits between news are very hard . . . not knowing what will happen from one day to the next. It's very hard to understand all of this because the hostages are only innocent victims."
Visited 50 Cities
During the past few months, Jenco family members have traveled to 50 cities in 17 states to talk about the American hostages in Beirut. They claim relatives in 47 states and usually can find a relative to stay with. And with the other relatives, the Jencos have hounded officials for information.
"The one thing that we have accomplished is to stay in personal contact with people," Franceschini said. "If we had stayed home and just called, nothing would have happened."
Members of the Jenco family, which includes a brother, Joe Jenco, another sister, May Mihelich, and her son, Andy Mihelich, appear often in public to appeal for help in the release of the hostages. Jenco has called the State Department every Friday for the past year to learn everything he can.
"They have the file ready every Friday morning because they know I'll be calling," Jenco said.
Jenco has become so adept at traveling and talking about the hostage situation that he is considering running for public office.
The other Jenco family members in Joliet, Ill., meet at the Mihelich home every Monday night to pray and to discuss new ideas.
The Jenco family and the others are always readily accessible to the news media.
Jacobsen and his brother, Paul, also have written a song about the hostages. When it is released in Los Angeles in a few weeks, they hope radio stations throughout the country will play it.
Jacobsen spends only about half his time at the medical supply and research company where he works. He spends most of his free time on the telephone or arranging appearances. The families also stay in almost daily contact with each other.
Families Draw Close
It is their common, emotional predicament that has drawn the hostages' families especially close. Their goal is not just the release of their own relatives, but of all the hostages.
Last month, the families welcomed a new ally in Washington.