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Call Surprises Son : Family Elated: 'Finally, We Get to Smile'

November 03, 1986|RAY PEREZ | Times Staff Writer

Eric Jacobsen was so convinced that his father would not be released by his Lebanese terrorist captors this weekend that he switched off a bedside telephone before going to sleep Saturday night.

At 1:30 a.m. Sunday, U.S. State Department officials made the first call to Jacobsen's Huntington Beach apartment and left a message on the answering machine downstairs.

It was almost three hours later before a restless Jacobsen played back his messages and got word that his father, David P. Jacobsen, 55, director of the American University Hospital in Beirut, had been released unharmed and was with U.S. Embassy officials in the Lebanese capital.

531 Days of Captivity

But not until later, after final confirmation from Reagan Administration officials in Santa Barbara, did Eric, 30, and his brother, Paul, 28, emerge beaming over news that their father was finally free after 531 days of captivity and apparently in good health.

"Finally, we get to smile," said Eric. "Today, we can feel good that our father is on his way home."

But his family's elation was tempered by the knowledge that five other Americans remain in the hands of terrorists in Lebanon.

"We can't celebrate the way we want to until all the hostages are home," Eric Jacobsen said.

"It's such a relief. First, I just cried and cried and cried," Carla Forbes, one of David Jacobsen's two sisters, told the Associated Press early Sunday.

"I wasn't sad, but I had everything pent up inside me for so long, I just had to cry," said Forbes, who lives in Altadena.

Will Travel to Germany

The brothers, their 25-year-old sister, Diane Duggan of Long Beach, and their spouses are scheduled to depart for Washington today and later will be accompanied by State Department officials to Wiesbaden, West Germany, where they will be reunited with the former hostage.

Eric Jacobsen said he learned long ago not to believe rumors that his father--who was kidnaped May 28, 1985, as he walked to his hospital office--had been released.

"I just did not think it was going to be this weekend," Eric said. "It took us completely by surprise."

On Friday, family members had learned that Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite had renewed negotiations for the release of hostages in Lebanon, but they were not optimistic about an early breakthrough.

Shortly after dawn Sunday, hordes of reporters and television cameras already were stationed in the driveway of Eric Jacobsen's apartment complex. But he felt it was too early to comment.

"We wanted proof, because too many times we have been on this roller coaster," he said. "We wanted to wait until we felt confident it was true."

The anxious brothers and their wives watched television reports in the living room. Eric, red-eyed and subdued, occasionally strummed his guitar. Paul put his head on the lap of his pregnant wife, Lori, and dozed.

Speakes Confirms Release

Finally, nine hours after that initial call to Eric Jacobsen's home, White House spokesman Larry Speakes went on national television from Santa Barbara, where President Reagan was spending his Sunday, to confirm David Jacobsen's safe release.

The Jacobsens and the families of the two hostages believed held by the same Muslim extremist group--Associated Press correspondent Terry A. Anderson, 39, and Thomas Sutherland, 55, dean of agriculture at the American University--have often been critical of President Reagan for not doing enough to resolve the hostage crisis.

Earlier in the weekend, Eric and Paul Jacobsen had drafted a letter seeking more public support to pressure the U.S. government into finding a solution to the hostage situation.

On Sunday, the family was thankful for the good news.

"They (American officials) deserve a 'thank you' for my father," Eric said. "But the (complete) situation is not resolved yet, not until the other men come home."

Paul Jacobsen said his criticism of the Administration was not meant as a direct attack on Reagan but rather was intended to create public awareness for the plight of the American hostages.

"We've never tried to be antagonistic with the Administration," he said. "We just wanted more public awareness and for them to understand the frustration we were experiencing."

Eric said he had talked with relatives of hostages Anderson and Sutherland.

"They are very happy for us," he said. "Those families are like our own family, too. And I know how they feel because I felt the same way when Benjamin Weir and Father Jenco were released," he added.

Benjamin Weir, a Presbyterian minister, was kidnaped in Beirut two years ago and released in September, 1985. Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest, was kidnaped in January, 1985, and freed last July.

When Jacobsen, a native Southern California who spent three decades in hospital administration before taking the job in Lebanon, finally returns home, he will be an expectant grandfather.

Babies Expected

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