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Relatives ‘Just in Limbo’ After Release Is Delayed

Times Staff Writer

The Chicago Tribune’s Saturday morning headline--"Hostages Syria Bound"--had heralded one of the first solid bits of hope for the wife and five children of 57-year-old Simon Grossmayer. By afternoon, though, the newspaper that lay on the couch of the Grossmayer home in rural Algonquin, Ill., seemed a cruel taunt.

A few blocks away, Jo Ann Lazansky and her three children were awaiting news of her hostage husband, George, 53. About a dozen sympathetic relatives and friends had stopped by when they heard that the hostage transfer had hit a snag.

“We’re just in limbo now,” she said anxiously.

Both Lazansky and Grossmayer had been on a church trip, and their wives were hostages themselves briefly.

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Saturday had begun as a day of jubilation for 39 families across the nation. In the early morning, many had received phone calls from the State Department saying that a transfer of the hostages to Syria was imminent, almost certainly to be followed by their being sent to Frankfurt, West Germany.

Jubilation to Frustration

However, the 16th day of their ordeal ended with disappointment and frustration as plans to move the hostages to Syria unraveled. By day’s end, the captives were still in Beirut, and sleepless relatives watching their loved ones thousands of miles away via television had no idea when they would be able to embrace them again.

The families, meanwhile, are handling the strain in their own ways. To cope with the crisis, the large and close family of 31-year-old Victor Amburgy has tried to ease its worry by planning a big family reunion in White Lake, Wis., to celebrate his return. His aunt, Letha Landry, expressed optimism: “I believe (the release) will happen this weekend. I’m just being patient, and I know it will happen. I feel at peace.”

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Others, already restless, were growing increasingly angry. Chantal Suggs had bought a plane ticket to Frankfurt in anticipation of a reunion with her husband, Clinton, 29, and a chance “to catch up on our life together.” Instead, she remained in Virginia Beach, Va.

“They’re starting with those head games, and that’s making me feel uncomfortable,” she said. “Now, I’m getting mad.”

Some of the more optimistic headed for Frankfurt anyway. Axel and Susan Traugott, brother and sister-in-law of hostage Ralf Traugott, 32, had taken NBC News up on its offer of free tickets from Boston to West Germany.

Still others may depart today. TWA, whose Flight 847 from Athens to Rome had been the victim of the hijacking, said Saturday that it would fly one member of each family to Frankfurt.

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Still, many said that they preferred to wait until they knew for certain that their hostage relatives would be there too.

“We don’t believe anything until we see it,” said Deanna Hoskins in a telephone interview from Indianapolis. “We haven’t made any preparations to leave town at all.” Her son, James Jr., had gone to Greece with his fiancee to celebrate his graduation from college.

Coaching Job Offer

Family members said James Hoskins does not yet know that, during his captivity, he has been offered one of the jobs for which he had applied before leaving. A local high school wants the 22-year-old star athlete from Butler University to teach social studies and coach football and track.

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Like other relatives, Deanna Hoskins has turned to television for reassurance that the hostages are still healthy. But, as the the end of the ordeal appeared closer, she said, “The televisions are just driving us crazy right now.”

And television brought panic to the Laredo, Tex., family of Vicente Garza, 53, and his 37-year-old son-in-law, Robert Trautmann.

Family members watched a Saturday morning roll call of the hostages and rejoiced to see Garza--the only one wearing a necktie, they noted. But they panicked when Trautmann did not answer to the call of his name. They had already been especially concerned about him--he was one of several passengers singled out by the hijackers at the onset of the crisis because they had what sounded to the hijackers like “Jewish names” or some connection to the U.S. military.

Trautmann is not Jewish but Roman Catholic. He and Garza attend Laredo’s Blessed Sacrament Church, which has been keeping a round-the-clock vigil for them. The list of those who have participated now totals 53 pages.

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“There has been a series of ups and downs, a lot of hoping, waiting and praying,” Judith Zaffirini, a family friend, said. “That is all there is to life these days.”


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