Graduate’s Thoughts Are With Her Hostage Father
By design, because her hostage father wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, Diane Barczak’s graduation from Mission Bay High School Tuesday evening included very little mention of the plight of Jerome Barczak and the other captives of the Shia terrorists who hijacked TWA’s Flight 847 last week.
Barczak, a former San Diego resident now working as a civil engineer for General Dynamics in Cairo, had intended to travel halfway around the world to see Diane’s graduation ceremony. Instead, he remains a captive of terrorists somewhere in Beirut--one of the more than 30 Americans still held hostage.
But his loved ones here tried to forgot their worries for a few hours so as not to mar the festivities.
“We considered doing something special but decided it was best to have everything go forward as planned,” said Balvanera Urrea, Mission Bay High’s principal. “Diane and her family wanted it that way. Even so, we kept hoping until the last minute that he would be released so we would have something special to celebrate.”
Diane, 17, the third member of her family to graduate from Mission Bay High, carried a bouquet of yellow roses “as a sign of hope” for the release of her father. Other members of the family, including Barczak’s ex-wife, Mary Ann Foglio, sat in the front row, wearing yellow carnations, and jumped to their feet to cheer the beaming girl as she received her diploma and flashed them a thumbs-up sign.
Each of the graduates wore a yellow ribbon. Diane made an impromptu stop at the microphone to address the crowd gathered in the high school’s football stadium.
“Excuse me if my voice is a little shaky,” she said. “But I just want to thank Mission Bay for wearing the yellow ribbons. To know all of you people really care is keeping us together. And I want to thank my family. We’re going to pull through this.”
Later, mobbed by reporters who asked what she planned to do Tuesday night, Diane, like any other girl on her graduation night, said she would “go out and party.”
“My dad wouldn’t want me to sit at home and brood,” she said.
“I know he’s thinking about me, and I know he’d want me to be happy. And wherever he is, I think Dad is happy for me tonight, too.”
Admitting she is “not a political person,” Diane offered no opinion on President Reagan’s handling of the hostage crisis except to say she knew the President was “doing all he can--he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
The Barczaks said they had received some good news about Jerome Tuesday--sources at the State Department told them the Shia Muslims had reported him in good health. “We heard he got to eat a pizza,” Diane said, “and that’s one of this favorite meals.”
While the family maintained their optimism, they discussed for the first time the possibility that Jerome Barczak and the other hostages may be in for a long ordeal in Beirut.
“We know Dad will stay strong, because that’s the kind of person he is,” said Michael Barczak, Jerome’s 21-year-old son. “If this thing becomes drawn out, we’re prepared to handle it. But that doesn’t change the fact that we still know absolutely in our hearts that he will be back with us safe one day.”
At the home of San Diego County’s other family touched by the hijacking, Jose and Sylvia Delgado said they planned to “sleep about 20 hours” Tuesday. They arrived at their Escondido home in the early-morning hours, after their release by the terrorists.
The retired barber and his wife were coming home from a monthlong vacation in Greece and Egypt last Friday when they were caught in the hijack drama. Sylvia was among the first 19 hostages released several hours after the jetliner was commandeered to Beirut as it left Athens en route to Rome. On Saturday, Jose, who suffered from high blood pressure, was released in Algiers.
It was not until Sunday night, however, that the couple were reunited at the American Embassy in Paris, and they flew home Monday in the same clothes they were wearing when they boarded Flight 847 in Athens. After several plane changes, Flight 847 was eventually supposed to arrive in San Diego at 10:15 Friday night.
Jose Delgado said he would “rather wait until everybody is safe” before elaborating on the hostage drama. But as the couple met joyous family members and hordes of reporters and photographers upon arriving at Lindbergh Field, Jose, beaming at one moment and choking back tears the next, said, “I’m proud of the whole bunch (fellow passengers aboard the hijacked plane). We all stuck together. And now, here we are.”
Daniel Delgado, the couple’s son, who spoke to his parents before they boarded the plane home from Paris, said, “They were not treated badly.”
His mother, he said, “was tapped on the head as the hijackers went up and down the aisles of the plane,” but his father had not even been aware that Robert Dean Stethem, a U.S. Navy diver aboard the plane, had been murdered by the terrorists.
Daniel’s wife, Linda, a professor of law who is on maternity leave, commented on the irony of the hijacking, noting that she has an Islamic uncle and often tutors Arab students at Palomar College.
“This sure changes a lot of my opinions,” she said. “But I don’t want to say anything that might make those terrorists angry and affect the safety of the poor people who are still being held in Beirut.”
The Delgados said they were in good health after their ordeal, although Jose, who has a history of strokes, had not been given his proper medicine for high blood pressure. “Being home is the greatest feeling in the world,” Jose said.
Reporters asked the couple, who are experienced world travelers, if they would venture into the Middle East again.
“Oh, yes, in a minute,” Sylvia said, flashing a bright smile.