Monday marked eight long years of an unimaginable nightmare. When my father, Robert Levinson, was taken on the Iranian island of Kish on March 9, 2007, the iPhone had not yet come out, and Twitter had not yet taken off in popularity.
Then-Sen. Barack Obama had announced his exploratory committee for the presidency only a few weeks earlier. The Virginia Tech tragedy had not yet happened. Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac were still leading Britain and France respectively. Nobody had heard of Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber or Mad Men.
More important, my family hadn’t yet seen two sisters get married. Three of my father’s grandchildren hadn’t been born. One, his only granddaughter, was born almost two years after he was kidnapped, and is now in school reading at a fourth-grade level.
She has only heard the many stories about Grandpa Bob.
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My youngest brother, then barely five feet tall, hadn’t yet grown to his 6’4” frame, or even attended high school. He graduates from college next year.
In fact, no American has ever been held hostage abroad for as long as my dad has. He broke that record almost a year and a half ago.
Our family is not naive about his precarious circumstances. Nor will we ever lose hope of seeing him returned home. People have assumed he passed away in captivity since the first year. But then we received a video of him years later. And then pictures.
We believe everyone, including the U.S. government and the media, should continue to operate under the assumption that my dad is alive. Those holding him understand how, as a former FBI agent, his health and well-being are of vital importance to the U.S. government.
President Obama even urged my father be returned home during his brief phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, the only contact between the leaders of our two countries in 34 years.
Tuesday marks his 67th birthday, another one he will be spending thousands of miles away from everyone he loves.
It is time for him to be allowed to come home to his family and spend his twilight years with his wife of more than 40 years, their seven children and four grandchildren.
My family is desperate. We have lived far too long with our father away from us. We have celebrated too many life milestones. And sadly, we have seen too many of these anniversaries of his disappearance come and go.
I pray no family should ever have to suffer such a nightmare again.
Dan Levinson, Coral Springs