When she heard the gunfire that began her rescue from Somali kidnappers, the last thing she thought it could be was the U.S. Military -- she says she thought it was a rival Islamic faction come to kidnap her from her kidnappers and probably kill her. But after three months in captivity, it was the Navy SEALs who rescued Jessica Buchanan from an ordeal in which she was at first certain she would be raped and killed and then thought she would die of an infection before a ransom could be paid. The former humanitarian aid worker speaks to Scott Pelley in her first interview for a 60 Minutes story to be broadcast Sunday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.
"Never. Never in a million years," says Buchanan, in response to Pelley pointing out that President Obama knew her name and eventually sent a SEAL team in to rescue her. She never thought her country would do anything she says, because "I'm just an aid worker. I figured it was just in the hands of my family and my organization."
Buchanan was in Somalia to teach children how to avoid unexploded mines. Her nightmare began after passing out mine awareness bracelets for kids when, leaving the school, gun-toting thugs jumped into her car and drove her away. "I figured they were going to rape me and then kill me," she tells Pelley. "And I just keep thinking, 'This can't be the end of my life. I am only 32 years old. I haven't had any children yet."
She soon was taken aback by a terrible irony: "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 and here I have a child involved in my kidnapping, it's just unbelievable."
The terrifying car ride finally stopped and her fear got worse when she and her fellow captor, co-worker Poul Thisted, were ordered to walk into the desert. She was at a low point and refused to walk, she says, until Thisted urged her on. She says she began shouting, "Please help me. I'm too young to die." Then she resigned herself to death. "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," says Buchanan.
But her captors told her to sleep and when she awakened, she found they wanted a ransom of $45 million. Thus began three months of moving around in the desert, sleeping in the elements, including cold nights and the constant wet of the rainy season. She was fed enough to stay alive, including tuna fish and bread, but became sick. "They treated us like animals," she tells Pelley.
Eventually, she became very sick. Buchanan thought she might have a kidney infection. She could barely walk. '"I'm afraid I am going to die out here,'" she says she told her captors, who were still in negotiations for her ransom. Once word got back to U.S. authorities, who had been monitoring the situation and her location, the need to rescue her became a priority.
In the 60 Minutes story Sunday, she describes in detail what happened when Navy SEALs rescued her in a dramatic nighttime operation. She has also written a book about her ordeal, "Impossible Odds."