Three years ago, Matthew VanDyke narowly escaped a Libyan prison after being arrested while researching a book. Now, he’s back in a war zone for more.
Some of us Baltimore-based freelance writers sit at our kitchen tables, sipping tea, trying not to freak out too much about impending hurricanes. And others get arrested in Tripoli, endure six months of solitary confinement, then escape in a dramatic jailbreak (is there any other kind?) and wander the streets of Tripoli amidst the rebel takeover. You can probably guess which kind I am.
Thank god this story had a happy ending. Baltimorean Matthew VanDyke traveled alone to Libya to conduct research for a book he’s been writing about his solo travels through the Middle East; when he lost touch with his mother and girlfriend after March 12, many people feared the worst. VanDyke’s mother, Sharon (who recently retired as principal of Federal Hill Elementary in South Baltimore), sounds like a tough cookie herself: According to the Baltimore Sun, she’s a single mom, an only child, and both of her parents are dead. That means that much of the burden of keeping hope alive (and pestering Congress) was on her shoulders (and those of VanDyke’s girlfriend, a teacher in Baltimore). And it all paid off: When Matthew finally called his mother after his daring escape a few days ago, his voice sounded funny because he hadn’t spoken to anyone for six months.
Ultimately, Sharon VanDyke kind of comes off as the hero(ine) of the story. When her son was still missing, when the bullets were flying all over Libya, she told the Baltimore Sun, “I raised him to follow his dreams and give back to his community. And your community doesn’t have to be your neighborhood.” That’s some real homefront Bravery right there. Right on, Sharon!