The Rescue of Jessica Buchanan

An American aid worker's first interview about being kidnapped and held for ransom by Somali pirates in a 93-day ordeal

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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?