60 Minutes Presents: Tales of Survival

Two tales of survival -- one about an American who nearly lost her life in Africa, the other about Africans who found their lives in America

The following script is from "60 Minutes Presents: Tales of Survival," hosted by Scott Pelley, which aired on Jan. 19, 2014.

Good evening.  I'm Scott Pelley.  Tonight, on 60 Minutes Presents, two tales of survival -- one about an American who nearly lost her life in Africa, the other about Africans who found their lives in America.

We begin with the rescue of Jessica Buchanan. It is the story of a secret mission by Seal Team 6 that few people had heard about until we first reported this story last year.

The Rescue of Jessica Buchanan

On a January night in 2012, members of SEAL Team 6 jumped from a plane into the skies of Somalia. Jessica Buchanan was being held hostage and the SEALs were descending just in time. Buchanan was a humanitarian aid worker who had come to help children in one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Hers was an ordeal that ended in a flash of violence but had begun 93 days earlier when her car was stopped by bandits in a place she calls hell.

Jessica Buchanan: We stopped, very abruptly like so abruptly that I felt like everybody just fall forward and then I started to hear all of this pounding on the windows and the windshield and shouting in Somali and there is a man standing there screaming with an AK-47 and he's shouting and pointing it at us and then he climbs into the car next to me and points an AK into my face and they're hyped up like they're on speed and all of the sudden we just take off. The driver just takes off and we just start slamming down these camel tracks.

Scott Pelley: What did you think they were going to do?

Jessica Buchanan: I figured they were going to rape me. And then kill me. And I just keep thinking, "This can't be the end. This can't be the end of my life. I'm only 32 years old. I haven't had any children yet." I didn't get to say goodbye to Erik. I didn't get to say goodbye to my dad. Like, this can't be the end.

 Jessica Buchanan was facing the end at the end of the Earth. Somalia, on the farthest tip of Africa, is war torn and lawless.

[Scott Pelley: This is essentially No Man's Land.]

"And I just keep thinking, 'This can't be the end. This can't be the end of my life. I'm only 32 years old. I haven't had any children yet.'"

Militias battle over an unforgiving land as we saw while covering a famine there in 2011. It was the same year that Buchanan was with a Danish charity teaching children how to avoid landmines. On October 25th, her car was hijacked.

Jessica Buchanan: The driver is driving just like a madman, we are bouncing all over the place, my head keeps hitting the window, it keeps hitting the roof I'm holding on to the side, the handle on the Land Cruiser just trying to keep myself steady.

Scott Pelley: What happened next?

Jessica Buchanan: It gets dark and we've changed vehicles a couple of times more people have come. They're screaming. And I hear from behind me a higher pitched voice going on and on in Somali. And I think, "My god, they have a woman involved in this." And I turn around, and I see a small child in the back of the Land Cruiser with an AK-47 draped in ammunition. And I think the irony of why I came to Africa in the first place.

Scott Pelley: Exactly the kid you were trying to save?

Jessica Buchanan: Yeah.

Scott Pelley: A child soldier?

Jessica Buchanan: Yeah.

Scott Pelley: What was he doing?

Jessica Buchanan: Learning the trade.

She'd been kidnapped along with a coworker, Poul Thisted. They drove into the night and then were ordered to march into the desert.

Jessica Buchanan: And they tell us to get down on to our knees and I think this is it and I'm bracing myself to be shot in the back of the head. And I think that there's mercy in the fact that maybe they're not going to rape me first, but that it's just going to be quick. And I'm waiting and I'm waiting, and then all of a sudden, somebody shouts from behind us, "Sleep." And I'm thinking, "Oh my god, I didn't hear that correctly, did I? He just said, 'Sleep'?"

 She collapsed, slept through the night and the next morning was met by the man who led the bandits.

Jessica Buchanan: And we ask him, "Are you going to kill us? Is that why we're here?" He says, "No, no, no. Money. We just want money."

Scott Pelley: How much were they asking for?

Jessica Buchanan: They started out at $45 million.

Scott Pelley: They thought you were pretty valuable.

Jessica Buchanan: I guess so.

The bandits used her cell phone to call her husband Erik Landemalm. The two had married on an African beach two years before. But his number and the numbers of Buchanan's family had all been disconnected. It was part of the charity's emergency plan. The one number that worked was her Nairobi office with a hostage negotiator standing by. And so began months of talks.

 Scott Pelley: Where did they keep you, day in, day out?

Jessica Buchanan: Under trees. And outside.

Scott Pelley: You were outdoors for 93 days?

Jessica Buchanan: Yep. And at the night, they forced us to sleep out in the open.

Scott Pelley: What were the nights like?

Jessica Buchanan: Long and cold. Then the rainy season hit, and it would rain all night long. And you're already freezing. So, then you're sitting there wet.

Scott Pelley: What were you eating?

Jessica Buchanan: Tuna fish. Maybe once a day. We would get a small can of tuna fish and a piece of bread.

Scott Pelley: Did you feel like you were beginning to lose your humanity at any point?

Jessica Buchanan: Yeah I mean they treated us like animals. To be so sick that, you know, you're vomiting behind bushes. And you can't walk straight, and you're laying in the fetal position on the ground under a tree. And they don't even, they don't care. Their duty was to keep me from dying because then I wasn't worth anything.

They were in the hands of men and boys chewing khat. It has the same effect as amphetamines.

Jessica Buchanan: They were so hyped up on speed. It was like drinking pot after pot of coffee. And then, the crash would come. And then, it brought a lot of belligerence, and a lot of anger. And a lot of temper.

Scott Pelley: You and Poul came up with nicknames for a lot of the people who were keeping you. It's one of the ways you kept yourself occupied--

Jessica Buchanan: We did.

Scott Pelley: The 10-year-old boy?

Jessica Buchanan: Crack baby. 'Cause he was cracked out all the time. He was chewing khat and he had two blacks holes for eyes. There was nothing inside.

This is one of the camps where she was held. The bandits hit her, pointed their guns at her and put a knife to her throat. But it was exposure that took a toll. She lost 25 pounds. After three weeks the bandits made a video to prove that she was alive.

Scott Pelley: Have you seen the video?

Jessica Buchanan: I have. I can tell I'm starting to lose hope at that point.

But hope would have to last for two more months.

Scott Pelley: As the many weeks went by, did you think the American government is watching me? They know where I am and somebody's gonna get me outta here?

Jessica Buchanan: No.

Scott Pelley: Why?

Jessica Buchanan: Because I'm just an aid worker.

Scott Pelley: You didn't imagine that the president of the United States knew your name?

Jessica Buchanan: Never. Never in a million years.

After three months in the desert, Buchanan had a serious urinary tract infection and in a final call to the hostage negotiator she said this.

Jessica Buchanan: I'd become so ill that I couldn't stand up. I couldn't walk. I was in so much pain. And I said, "I think I have a kidney infection." And I started to cry, and I said, "I think, I'm afraid I'm going to die out here.

When that call was received here in Nairobi it set off a chain of events that led all the way to the Oval Office. The FBI and the military consulted doctors who said that if Jessica had a kidney infection, she might have just two weeks to live. That was transmitted to the president, who was also informed that in just a few days there would be a new moon--perfect darkness for a SEAL team rescue.

Jessica Buchanan had chosen a star in the Somali sky to represent her mother who had passed away a year before. She spoke to it every night and, with no moon, it was especially bright on January 25th.

Scott Pelley: What did you say that night?

Jessica Buchanan: Please tell God that I need some help. We need to get out of here.

Scott Pelley: You couldn't have known that that prayer would be answered that night?

Jessica Buchanan: I had no idea.

She was on a mat, trying to sleep when she heard a faint scratching noise. One of the bandits she nicknamed "Helper" heard it too.

Jessica Buchanan: And then I see this look of just sheer terror on Helper's face. And then all of the sudden it's just this eruption of gunfire. And I think, "OK, well this is it. This really is truly the end." And I cover up with my blanket again, and I just start saying, "Oh God, oh God, oh God." And I just remember thinking, or maybe I'm saying out loud, like, "I cannot survive this."

She thought she was being taken by a rival group, maybe al Shabaab the Islamic extremists who would surely kill her.

Jessica Buchanan: And then all of the sudden, I feel all these hands on me. Roughly grabbing at me. And I try to protect myself, and I pull the blanket closer on top of me. And then I hear my name. But it's not a Somali accent, it's an American accent. And I can't compute. Like I can't understand that somebody with an American accent knows my name. And they say, "Jessica we're with the American military. We're here to take you home, and you're safe." I pull the blanket down from my face and all I see is black. Black masks, black sky and all I can say over and over is, "You're American? You're Americans? I don't understand, you're American." Thinking, how did you get here? And I'm still alive, and they ask me where my shoes are and I don't know. And one of them picked me up and starts running. He runs for several minutes and puts me down on the ground. And I'm still asking who these Americans are? I don't understand who they are and I don't understand what they've done. And then they identify themselves, and that they knew I was very sick. And they have medicine and they have water, they have food. And they've come to take me home. At one point I think they thought they heard something. I don't know this group of men who's risked their life for me already asks me to lie down on the ground because they're concerned that there might be someone out there. And then they make a circle around me. And then they lie down on top of me. To protect me. And we lay like that until the helicopters come in.

Scott Pelley: When all of those SEALs laid down on top of you, you were the most important thing in the world for them?

Jessica Buchanan: It's really hard to comprehend.

Scott Pelley: They were gonna take a bullet for you?

Jessica Buchanan: Uh huh (affirm). And they are so kind and so gentle. And they are trying to assist me to get the the helicopter, but I think I've been out here for months, I can run to this helicopter myself. And so I just break away and I just take off running through the scrub, through the bush, and I throw myself onto that helicopter and push myself up against the wall. And I don't start breathing until we actually lift up off the ground.

Jessica Buchanan: And they hand me an American flag that's folded.

Scott Pelley: What did you think of that?

Jessica Buchanan: I just started to cry. At that point in time I have never in my life been so proud and so very happy to be an American.

The SEALs left on other helicopters. She didn't see their faces, didn't hear their names. They appeared and they were gone. The only thing left in the camp were nine dead bandits.

It all ended just hours before the State of the Union address. As the president walked in he had a secret with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that almost no one understood until later.

"I just started to cry. At that point in time I have never in my life been so proud and so very happy to be an American."

[Obama: Good job, good job tonight.]

After the speech, President Obama called Buchanan's father. Jessica met her husband Erik at a U.S. base in Italy.

 Jessica Buchanan: I just couldn't believe he was standing there and that I was standing there. And we had-- we had a second chance. And then, later we flew to Portland, Oregon. And I was reunited with my father and my brother and my sister and her husband.

Scott Pelley: What was the first thing you said to your father?

Jessica Buchanan: "Daddy I'm, I'm so sorry that you had to go through this, but we made it."

And so did her Danish co-worker Poul Thisted who was also rescued by the SEALs. He said later that his lucky break was being captured with an American. Jessica Buchanan has told her story in a book, "Impossible Odds," published by Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS. You may recall that she said that her first thought when being taken was that she was too young to die because she hadn't had children. Well, she's taken care of that too. She and her husband have a baby boy and they've moved from East Africa back to the U.S. near Washington, D.C. to be close to Jessica's father. 

Jessica_FamilyPicture.jpg
 

 The Lost Boys

Twelve years ago, 60 Minutes aired a story about Lost Boys from Sudan who fought off unspeakable dangers and then flew off to the United States. It all began in the 1980s, during Sudan's civil war in which more than two million people died. The boys' parents were killed; their sisters often sold into slavery. Many of the boys died too. But the survivors…thousands of them… started walking across East Africa. Alone.

Five years later they walked into a refugee camp in Kenya. That's where we first met them, when many were hoping to go to the United States.  Well, 3,000 did, as part of the largest resettlement of its kind in American history. We followed the boys for more than a decade and couldn't resist revisiting them, to see how they're doing. But first, we'll take you back to northern Kenya, to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Springtime 2001.

Nothing drew a crowd like the list. Once a week, the Lost Boys saw their destiny on a bulletin board. The staples of life. On this day, 90 learned they'd be going to America. .

[Voices: Boston. I'm going to Flororida...Flororida] 

LostBoys_PartOne.jpg
Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, 2001
CBS News
 Every Sunday, a plane arrived at the camp to take the boys from nowhere to somewhere, from Kakuma to JFK and beyond. Not all of the Lost Boys got to go. Joseph Taban Rufino had walked to the board so many times, he tried not to get excited.

Bob Simon: What's new?

Joseph Taban Rufino: Something new. I've seen my name on the board.

Bob Simon: Your name is on the board. Where are you going?

Joseph Taban Rufino: That's Kansas City.

Bob Simon: Do you know where it is?

Joseph Taban Rufino: I don't know...

Abraham Yel Nhial was taking this walk for the 25th time. He was an ordained minister of Sudan's Episcopal Church at Kakuma. He looked at the board as if it were a holy scroll.

Abraham Yel Nhial: I'm going to Chicago...Is it interesting?

Bob Simon: Oh, it's very interesting.

Abraham Yel Nhial: Thank you for that.

They were known as the Lost Boys because they were between five and 11 when their Christian villages in southern Sudan were attacked by Islamist forces from the north. When they saw their villages burning, they started running. Streams of boys became rivers. Hundreds became thousands until an exodus of biblical proportions was underway. They walked for three months across Sudan, barefoot. Twelve thousand found refuge in Ethiopia. But after four years, they were chased out at gunpoint, chased to the Gilo River where the waters did not part. For Joseph Taban, that day will never go away.

Joseph Taban Rufino: We saw so many people who were just floating on the river.

Bob Simon: Dead bodies.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Dead bodies, yeah, who are floating on the river...

Many were shot. Many drowned. Many were eaten by crocodiles. Zachariah Magok was there.

Zachariah Magok: One thousand to 2,000 who died in that river.

Bob Simon: One or 2,000 died in that river?

Zachariah Magok: Yes.

It wasn't much better on the other side. They walked across deserts, over mountains. They had no food or water. Paul Deng was seven when he started the walk.

Paul Deng: You have to urinate so that you drink your own urine.

Bob Simon: Did you ever do it yourself?

Paul Deng: Yeah. I didn't want to die. Other people didn't want to die.

In the spring of 1992, after walking more than a thousand miles, the boys made it over the border into Kenya, to a desolate place called Kakuma. For the UN, it was an emergency of vast proportions, these emaciated children. For the boys, it was the safest they'd been in five years.

Joseph became a medical assistant at the camp clinic.

Abraham found a job, preaching the gospel in a church built of mud. The Lost Boys couldn't go home to Sudan and Kenya didn't want them. Then, in the year 2000, the State Department decided they deserved a break and invited them to come live in the United States.

Sasha Chanoff: What we want to do is give you a correct understanding of what life will be like in America.

Before they took off for their new lives in the new world, Sasha Chanoff, a teacher from Boston, gave them a crash course: America 101.

[Sasha Chanoff: Does anybody know who the president in the U.S. is now?

Voice: George Bush W...]

Things they could not imagine, like winter.

[Sasha Chanoff: This is a little what winter in America feels like (begins ice demonstration).

Voice: It's very cold!

Voice: Will you die because of that coolness?

Sasha Chanoff: No, you will not die because of the coolness.]

He had three days to prepare them for a leap of a thousand years.

Sasha Chanoff: Many of them have never been exposed to lights or to a fork and a knife. Or seeing a TV. It's a group that's lost in time.

They had four days to pack their luggage. They took little, left less behind.

Abraham was taking a book he'd been carrying for 10 years.

Bob Simon: You still have the bible that you carried from Ethiopia here?

Abraham Yel Nhial: Yes. It's my life. I have been called a Lost Boy. But I'm not lost from God. I'm lost from my parents.

As in any farewell, the lost boys were saying, "See you soon," but they knew better. Kakuma was losing its doctor and its priest.

"I have been called a Lost Boy. But I'm not lost from God. I'm lost from my parents."

The boys had never been on a plane before. They'd never even been on a bus.

LostBoys_PartTwo.jpg
CBS News
 Five planes in two days. First initiation rite: airplane food. And then changing planes in Brussels -- getting their feet on the ground in the Western world.

Next stop for Joseph Taban and his brothers: Kansas City.

Abraham the preacher man was supposed to go to Chicago but at the last minute that was changed to Atlanta. Volunteers introduced them to their new apartments, to American mysteries like a sink or a stove...

[Volunteer: Don't touch because it burns. It's hot].

...a vacuum cleaner or a can, let alone a can opener.

[Voice: Wonderful machine.]

Within a few weeks, Joseph had his first job in a sweltering fabric factory when he got home from work at 11 at night, he stayed up studying for that medical career he'd always dreamed of.

You won't be surprised to learn that Abraham found his salvation in church. All Saints, one of the largest Episcopal churches in Atlanta. A month after his arrival, he was invited to be a guest deacon.

[Abraham Yel Nhial: Hallelujah, Hallelujah...]

[Parishioner: You were terrific Abraham, you were so good.]

A big problem was the sheer size of America and everything in it. Home Depot was a long way from home.

[Abraham Yel Nhial: This store is too big.

Clerk: Oh, I know it is.

Abraham Yel Nhial: This is confusing. ]

Confusing? Try to imagine what a fountain looks like to a man who walked a thousand miles through a desert. Sasha Chanoff, who taught the boys back in Kenya, said it was not easy for them to distinguish between what was real and what was pure fantasy in America.

Sasha Chanoff: They're hearing that people have gone to the moon. If you're telling me people have gone to the moon, then they're seeing on TV that a horse can talk. Why is a horse talking so different from someone going to the moon? It's hard for people to distinguish what is reality and what is not. Some boy saw a street sign that said, "Dead end." And they thought, well, if I go down there, am I going to die?

Then came 9/11, just a few months after the boys got here. They thought they had left that kind of thing far behind, forever.

Abraham Yel Nhial: And it seem that war is following us. Wherever we go, war came after us.

[Joseph Taban Rufino:: Let's pray.]

As it did once again. The boys weren't surprised by it, not the way Americans were. For them, Islam and terrorism went together. Always had. Their reaction was immediate. Help the victims. In Atlanta, they offered to donate blood for the survivors in New York. But they were turned away.

Abraham Yel Nhial: So, what we did, we did collect some money, two dollars, five dollars. Because we have nothing. And we give about four hundred...

Bob Simon: Four hundred dollars?

Abraham Yel Nhial: Yes. And that's amazing.

Bob Simon: It really is.

Abraham Yel Nhial: Yes. A community with nothing. People just come from Africa.

But they weren't coming any more. After 9/11 the flights scheduled to bring over more Lost Boys were stopped. And the boys already here were having a tough time of it. That dreaded American winter was now upon them. They'd been warned, but it still came as a shock.

[Joseph Taban Rufino: Look, look, look!]

Winter gave them fun times, as well, though -- ice capades.

[Joseph laughing hysterically]

What Americans call a learning experience. And, Christmas, their first.

Bob Simon: In America, we call him Santa Claus.

Dominic Leek: Oh, yeah, I've heard of him.

Bob Simon: He lives in the North Pole and rides reindeer.

Joseph Taban Rufino: You mean he lives in the North Pole? Is he from--how do I call these people?

Bob Simon: Eskimos.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Eskimos, yeah.

Bob Simon: Well, he's the guy who brings presents to all the children on Christmas.

Joseph Taban Rufino: OK, OK.

Bob Simon: He makes kids happy, that's the important thing.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Oh that's good.

Within a year, a Kansas City investment banker, Joey McLiney, took Joseph under his wing and put him in the saddle. McLiney offered up his brand new car for Joseph's first driving lesson.

[Joey McLiney: Here we go. Stop Joseph, stop. Brake, brake, brake. Brake! OK don't...Lamp post! Hit the brake, that's the brake, the big one.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Oh boy. I'm so sorry, what a mess.]

That was 12 years ago.

In a moment, we'll give you a picture of the road the Lost Boys have been taking in America.

Before their arrival in America in 2001, the Lost Boys of Sudan knew very little about what would be a totally new world for them. For the U.S. government, it was quite a social experiment. America may be a country of immigrants, but it's not often that the State Department organizes an airlift of people who know virtually nothing about the modern world.

The Lost Boys were sent all over the place from Fargo, North Dakota to Phoenix, Arizona. Joseph Taban Rufino landed in Kansas City. Abraham Yel Nhial was sent to Atlanta. We never forgot about them and their fellow Lost Boys and, as we reported last spring, we felt good when it appeared they hadn't forgotten about us.

[Abraham Yel Nhial: Hey, Bob Simon! How're you doing? Long time no see.

Joseph Taban Rufino: How you doing buddy?]

We visited the Lost Boys from time to time over the last 12 years -- wanted to be there for the moments they never could have imagined.

On this day, Abraham was one of 92 people from 37 countries to get a new piece of paper.

[Woman: Congratulations, you are now a United States citizen.]

A Lost Boy who now belongs somewhere.

Bob Simon: Do you think of yourself as an American?

Abraham Yel Nhial: Yes. This, this home for me.

Abraham is so proud of his American passport he carries it with him wherever he goes.

Abraham Yel Nhial: The only papers we have are from America.

Bob Simon: Are you telling me that passport in that jacket pocket of yours is the first identity paper you've ever had?

Abraham Yel Nhial: This it.

Bob Simon: Before that you had no document at all?

Abraham Yel Nhial: No.

Joseph still hadn't gotten a passport. His driver's license was stolen from him in Kansas City. And that was just the beginning.

Bob Simon: You've had your car flooded.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Right.

Bob Simon: You've been stabbed.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Exactly.

Bob Simon: You've been hit by a car.

Joseph Taban Rufino: That's right.

Bob Simon: Your kitchen was set on fire.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Indeed.

Bob Simon: And you like it here.

Joseph Taban Rufino: You know, things, things happen.

There was more bad news at work. Joseph was laid off a few times from his job at a grain company, a victim of the tough economy and in the small, dimly lit apartment he rents, he still studies medical books, even while his dream of going to med school is slipping away.

Bob Simon: Do you feel like you've been successful in America?

Joseph Taban Rufino: Not at all. My main aim was to go to the school in order to be what I've said, to be a doctor. But things fall apart.

Bob Simon: So unless you're a doctor, you will not feel that you are successful?

Joseph Taban Rufino: That's true.

Abraham did graduate from college.

Abraham Yel Nhial: It's been a long journey but God blessed me.

After many 4 a.m. bus rides to school, he got a degree in biblical studies from Atlanta Christian College.

Sasha Chanoff, who led those orientation classes back at Kakuma, now runs an organization called RefugePoint which champions refugees in Africa. He still stays in touch with the Lost Boys.

Sasha Chanoff: I would say this is one of the most successful resettlements in U.S. history.

Bob Simon: Wow.

Sasha Chanoff: Some of them are in law school. Some are in medical school. But of course when you have 4,000 guys or so who arrive, some don't do as well. Some struggle.

Some have had problems with drugs and alcohol. A few are in jail. But some Lost Boys who were orphaned by war, have been wounded fighting for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Daw Dekon made it out unscathed.

Bob Simon: So you were in Iraq?

Daw Dekon: Three times.

Bob Simon: Three times?

Daw Dekon: Yes.

He joined the Army after 9/11.

Daw Dekon: I'm a young man able to hold a gun or to go with other young men in this country who were born here, why not? That's my duty.

Bob Simon: So you joined the Army because you wanted to give something back to America?

Daw Dekon: Yes.

Dominic Leek: (singing) Thank you America, I want to let the whole world know...

Dominic Leek, a friend of Joseph's in Kansas City, wrote a song he says represents the feelings of many Lost Boys.

Dominic Leek: When I came to this country, I was helped by the government of this country and the people of America. So, what I did was, I thank them for the opportunity they gave to me and my fellow Lost Boy.

[Abraham Yel Nhial: And we were forced into the river.]

Abraham feels he has a mission - to make sure people will not forget. He speaks at universities across the country. Here he was at Yale, explaining to students why he believes God kept the boys alive.

"When I came to this country, I was helped by the government of this country and the people of America. So, what I did was, I thank them for the opportunity they gave to me and my fellow Lost Boy."

Abraham Yel Nhial: God kept us alive to be witness of what took place in

Sudan. That the only thing. It's not because we were more important than the others, than our mothers, our fathers and brothers who have dies (sic). But simple is so that we will be witness.

It happened a long time ago, so the Lost Boys don't have too much trouble talking about it, but at night time...

Bob Simon: Do you have a lot of nightmares?

Joseph Taban Rufino: Oh, indeed, a lot. During the young age where we were when I was there, we're not supposed to see the dead body, or bury the dead body. And we did that. And that's all come, like sometimes in form of dream.

For the Lost Boys, the most momentous news came in July of 2011. Their long-suffering homeland, South Sudan, was declared the world's newest nation.

Bob Simon: You saw the independent celebrations on your cell phone. How did it make you feel?

Joseph Taban Rufino: Oh, I was overwhelmed, going into tears.

Sasha Chanoff: They were an important factor that led to that independence.

Bob Simon: Hang on. They were an important factor that led to independence?

Sasha Chanoff:: I think so. They created a political environment in the U.S. where people were finally realizing what was happening in this remote genocide in Sudan that nobody had really heard of on a large scale before.

Not long ago, Sudanese flocked by the hundreds to a town called Aweil for a celebration. It wasn't Independence Day or anything like that. They came to a newly built brick cathedral to witness the installation of that preacher named Abraham as the first Episcopal bishop of his region in South Sudan.

A Lost Boy no more. It's Bishop Abraham now and who knows what's coming next.

Bob Simon: Maybe your next name will be Archbishop?

Abraham Yel Nhial: I don't know about that.

Abraham divides his time now between Africa and America. Not only is he an Anglican bishop, but a husband and a father.

Bob Simon: Oh, my heavens. This is your family?

Abraham Yel Nhial: Yes.

He goes back to Africa whenever he can to visit his new family. He got married in Kenya, has four kids, He wants them to join him in Atlanta but red tape keeps getting in the way.

Abraham Yel Nhial: Well, I would love that to happen, Bob. I've been trying for them to come but they not came. Maybe one day somebody will, will surprise me, that you and your kids come to America.

Joseph hadn't gone back to Africa, had no reason to. His whole family was dead, as far as he knew. Then, incredible news: his mother Perina was alive, had survived the war, had made it to a refugee camp in Uganda.

And there was another miracle: Skype. So, Joseph promptly ironed his best suit and went over to his mentor's house. His mother had been driven three hours to the offices of IOM, the international resettlement agency in South Sudan. It was the first time mother and son were going to see each other since they were separated by war 25 years ago.

His mother had thought Joseph was dead, had held a funeral service for him. Even now, she had no idea what he'd been through. When Joseph tried to tell her, he just couldn't do it.

But there were light moments too, shared memories of Joseph's happy childhood in a country village before the war ended childhood and everything else. And, of course, his mother wanted to know why, after all these years, Joseph had not married a nice American girl. After almost an hour, their time was almost up. His mother asked Joseph what all mothers ask their sons: When will come see me? And Joseph answered the only possible answer: As soon as I can mom, as soon as I can.

After our story aired last March, Joseph was able to make good on that promise to his mom, thanks to 60 Minutes viewers who donated enough money to fund his plane tickets. Just a few weeks ago, he was reunited with his mother in South Sudan for a short visit before returning to Kansas City. Joseph was lucky to get back to the United States. History, it seems, is repeating itself in South Sudan. Fighting has erupted in the last month, thousands of civilians have been killed. While his mother seems safe for now, South Sudan is on the brink of a civil war that could create more Lost Boys.



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