Missing [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Thomas Hauser
eBook Category: True Crime
eBook Description: Missing is a true story. In retelling it, writer Thomas Hauser did not need to novelize it. Using the facts alone, the book unfolds with the breathtaking suspense and intrigue of a fully imagined political thriller. Missing explores the fate of a young American journalist named Charles Horman who, living in Chile in 1973 just before the overthrow of the country's Marxist president Salvatore Allende, discovered evidence of the United States' involvement in an impending right-wing coup to overthrow Allende. The story takes on a new significance now, as the now-aged general who overthrew the Allende regime, Augusto Pinochet, is facing punishment for his actions. What makes the story of Missing so frightening and horrifying is that Horman was arrested by Chilean soldiers and never again seen alive by his family. American operatives, it seems, had a hand in his brutal murder. Charles Horman was an American, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker who had traveled to Chile in the early 1970s to explore a country undergoing significant changes under its Marxist president, Salvatore Allende. In the course of his research he seems to have uncovered information about CIA involvement in a plot to overthrow Allende. The coup took place, with Gen. Augusto Pinochet taking over as dictator and ordering the mass arrest of thousands of dissidents and suspected opponents. Charles Horman was one of these people, dragged from his home as the American embassy refused him help. His wife Joyce, who was with him in Chile, and his family never saw him alive again. Chilean security police murdered him, though they never admitted it. Horman's father, Ed, a patriotic American businessman, traveled to Santiago, where officials of the American embassy, led by the ambassador himself, offered to help him search for the son he believed had simply disappeared. The same embassy officials knew that Charles Horman was dead, even as they were "helping" his father, and when Ed Horman learned of this duplicity he turned his anger on his own countrymen. Published in 1978, five years after Pinochet took over Chile, Missing is a harrowing tale, a real-life modern tragedy that reads like a thriller. It is an explosive story, touching upon political matters that are sensitive to this day. Hauser calmly lays out the story, examining the facts as well as mysterious elements such as the arrival in Chile of a friend of Charles Horman and their visit, a day before the coup, to the seaside town of Viņa del Mar. What did they know? When did they know it? These are the answers Thomas Hauser searches for amid the breathtaking suspense of Missing.
eBook Publisher: RosettaBooks, Published: 2001
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2002
"Fifty-five thousand Americans died in Vietnam. With numbers like that, nobody cares about two who were killed in Chile." Elizabeth Horman leans forward in her chair. "I care. One of them was my son, and he was special." A half smile forms on her lips. "I suppose every mother says that about her son, but with Charles it was true. He was very special. Let me tell you about him.
"Charles was born with curly hair, pink cheeks, green eyes, and was very, very small. He was the kind of boy who almost obliterates himself because he's so shy. He learned too much too soon. At age three, he was afraid of being poisoned because he read the word 'poison' on a bottle of ammonia and the contents looked like water to him.
"He went to kindergarten a year early because we felt that, as an only child, he should be with other children. The other kids, who were bigger and older, took turns clobbering him. Finally, my husband Ed had to show him how to protect himself. 'If someone hits you,' Ed counseled, 'punch him in the mouth, and after that he'll leave you alone.' This was only partially satisfactory to Charles, who wanted to know what to do if he was set upon by two people. 'Give your full attention to whichever one is bigger,' Ed instructed. 'If you sock him good, the other one will run away.' "
A slightly self-conscious look crosses Elizabeth Horman's face. "You know, Charles abhorred violence all of his life. That's one of the things that make his death so intolerable.
"He loved books and always wanted to be read to. He had an extraordinarily inquisitive mind and was perpetually exploring new things. Just after he turned four, I took him to the American Museum of Natural History, and he drew a complete picture of every dinosaur there. Then he got into first grade. I went to school on Parents' Day, and all the other children raised their hands to answer questions. Charles just sat there in the back of the room without moving a muscle. I asked him afterwards why he didn't raise his hand. 'Because I already know the answers,' he told me. That was all he needed for satisfaction. He didn't have to show off in front of other people. He was happy just knowing.
"That same Parents' Day, after the children began a written lesson, Charles's teacher came up to me and said, 'I want to show you something.' The children were working on a problem in which they were supposed to draw three rabbits plus two rabbits making five rabbits. Most of the kids were racing through the assignment, and had drawn all the rabbits in the wink of an eye. 'Look,' the teacher said to me, and I looked over Charles's shoulder. He had drawn one rabbit. He hadn't addressed himself to the problem at all, but you should have seen that rabbit. It had eyes, ears, a tail, even fingernails. It was the most perfect rabbit you ever saw. He couldn't have cared less about the assignment. I went home that night and told Ed, 'Wonderful. We have a genius on our hands, but he'll never get promoted out of the first grade.' "
She laughs at the memory.
* * *
Charles Horman's roots were embedded in New York City. He was born and raised there. His parents, Ed and Elizabeth, have lived in New York all of their lives. As a child, he learned from his father about shells and the sea, stars, and the tides -- all part of what makes the world magical for little boys. He retained that knowledge in later years, taking great delight in pointing out constellations in the nighttime sky. Those who knew him have tried, on occasion, to parse out his talents. "He had Ed's sense of humor," they might say, "and definitely Ed's ability to collect and synthesize data. But he had Elizabeth's appreciation for the humanities and her artist's eye."
Whatever the source of his talents, Charles Horman was, first and foremost, the product of principled parents living principled lives. They gave him a strong sense of right and wrong, and the ability to appreciate a job well done. From their guidance and understanding sprang a remarkable record of youthful achievement.
At the Allen-Stevenson Grammar School in Manhattan, he was both first in his class and Student Body President. In autumn, 1957, he enrolled at the Phillips Exeter Academy in Rockingham County, New Hampshire. Renowned for its New England tradition and high academic standards, Exeter is set amid weather-beaten colonial houses by an old factory overlooking the Exeter River falls. Within this setting, seven hundred male students just past the age of puberty worked out their emotional problems on one another, twenty-four hours a day.
Always reticent in new social situations, Charles approached Exeter with great trepidation. His first months there were miserable. Once king of the hill at Allen-Stevenson, he was regarded as an odd, bookish sort by his older and tougher new classmates. They came into his room at night and plucked at the bow of his cello to keep him from studying. They hit him with sticks, pillows, and anything else they could lay their hands on. He was a fifteen-year-old boy whose voice had not yet matured, finding out that he hadn't grown up at all. To compound his misery, shortly after winter began, he broke his leg playing intramural ice hockey.
Slowly, Charles was accepted on his own terms. When he graduated from Exeter in 1960, he had been an honor student for each of his six terms and the first student elected President of both the school's literary magazine and historical debate society. Still, his individuality remained. Charles Donohue, a former classmate and now an attorney in New York recalls, "The big word at Exeter in those days was 'nego.' It was synonymous with a negative attitude towards life and, if you were cool, that was the attitude you adopted. You couldn't be cool if you showed too much enthusiasm for things. Charles Horman was different. Even then, he preferred to think of the world in positive terms."
Robert Kessler, Dean of Exeter, sums up Charles's years there in equally positive fashion: "He was an outstanding student, thoroughly responsible and reliable, respected by both his peers and his teachers. He had no arrogance with weaker students. He managed to accept the conventional requirements without giving up his own individual style. He was a leader."
One-third of Exeter's graduating class went to Harvard, and Charles was among them. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of his college years was his involvement in the civil rights movement. Like many Northerners who intruded upon the deep South in an attempt to change basic institutions, he was badly treated. Fire hoses and police dogs were common fare. In Plaquemine, Louisiana, he was jailed for vagrancy despite having two hundred dollars in his wallet.
As his interest in the world around him grew, Charles began to seek out new means of expression. Following a series of summer jobs with CBS, the New York Times, and a New York construction company, he devoted the entire summer after his junior year at Harvard to creative writing. Returning to college in the fall, he wrote, "This last summer, I was able to find out that I do want to be a writer. Never before have I devoted myself with such single-mindedness or joy to any project or received such a sense of satisfaction from the work."
He graduated from Harvard in 1964, and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for further study. Harvard Professor Robert Kiely recalls, "I read his essays and short stories, and must have had hundreds of hours of conversations with him. He was the ideal student -- not a mechanical grind nor someone who rested on his brains and floated through school on a cloud. He really wanted to learn."
In the summer of 1964, Charles's career plans were temporarily stalled by the burgeoning war in Vietnam. After enlisting in the Air Force National Guard, he served six months' active duty, followed by six years in the reserves. He began basic training fearful that his minimal physical gifts would embarrass him but learned that he was capable of doing all that was required. Greater confidence followed and, at the close of basic training, he stood in line with his fellow recruits as their commanding officer asked if any of them were experienced in communications. On raising his hand, Charles was immediately assigned the task of erecting telephone poles and stringing wires between them. Wearing a thick leather belt and spiked boots, he drove a spike into his ankle the first day on the job.
At the close of active duty (for which he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal), Charles Horman moved west. He had grown up in New York, been educated in the East, and seen the world only through the pages of the New York Times. His view of life was totally intellectual, and this troubled him. "I've never met anyone with an IQ of less than 130," he told a friend. "Somewhere, there must be different people."
After working briefly for KING-TV in Seattle, he was transferred to the station's Portland office, where he began making film documentaries. He lived in Oregon for two years, producing one film on the black community in Portland and another on the manufacture of napalm in Redwood City, California. Then, returning east, he took a job with WNET-TV -- the New York-New Jersey educational television station. Jerry Cotts, a co-worker and, later, best man at Charles's wedding, recalls their television days together: "I was a staff cameraman and Charles was a writer-producer for the late-night news. For six months, we did little pieces -- character studies of a typical New York cab driver; things like that. Finally, Charles talked the executive producer into letting us shoot a full segment with Herman Kahn at the Hudson Institute. We went up there and, for three or four days, were deluged with 1960s think-tank talk -- kill ratios; if we nuke this, how many Americans and Chinese will die? Stuff like that. One afternoon, one of Kahn's lieutenants showed us a map of Brazil with a red wax line circumscribed across a portion of the Amazon River. They were carrying out a feasibility study for flooding the entire surrounding area. Charles pointed to a city on the edge of the perimeter and asked, 'What will happen to the people who live here if the area is flooded?' The lieutenant shrugged his shoulders and answered, 'I don't know. I guess they'll get their feet wet.' "
As the war in Vietnam grew, Charles became increasingly wary of established institutions. In late 1967, he left WNET to work as a historian for the federal poverty program. The following June, he married Joyce Hamren, whom he described in apparently self-contradictory terms as "a free-spirited computer programmer." They moved into a small apartment on West 75th Street in Manhattan, and Charles once again turned his attention to writing. He was maced at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, which he covered for The Nation and the Christian Science Monitor. At the request of a Harvard classmate, he took a job with Innovation, a business magazine devoted to corporate management, and soon became the "staff liberal." Hardly an editorial meeting went by without Charles proclaiming, "I do not know how much longer I will wish to be associated with this organization." On the other side of the table, several staff members openly questioned the wisdom of the magazine's paying even lip service to a liberal point of view.
Meanwhile, the back room of the tiny West Side apartment was converted into a study. Each day at the close of work, Charles would come home, lodge himself behind the cluttered desk, and write. He wrote not for publication but because he enjoyed it; because he was fascinated by a myriad of things and wanted to preserve them on paper as best he could. He wrote for himself and his friends, on scraps of paper and in more elaborate personal journals. The journals grew throughout his years in New York and later in South America. Quite possibly, the data in them cost him his life.
* * *
Charles Horman was not a saint. He had faults, mostly those of youth and immaturity. He made mistakes and, like the rest of the world, was sometimes wrong in his judgments. But he was a warm, open, and compassionate person. He listened when other people talked. He cared about what they were doing and gained real pleasure from the accomplishments and joy of his friends.
He was a delight to be with. His conversation was sprinkled with anecdotes and stories which he made come alive. His sense of humor was sharp but never derogatory. He did not need a butt for his jokes to be appreciated. He accepted people for what they were and did not make judgments about them.
His curiosity was near-endless. He was never satisfied until he had experienced something for himself. He gave of himself as best he could and was never bitter when he failed.
He had a high sensitivity to moral values. He loved his wife, parents, and friends in a very special way. He was an idealist, with an optimism about people and human nature that led him to write, "Nothing attempted with love or kindness is bad." He was delighted with life and had much to give. Five years after his bullet-riddled body was found in the Santiago morgue, his murder remains intolerable.
Copyright © 1978 by Thomas Hauser