The Argo of North Dakota | VideoVan Tieu | 3/10/2013
Michael Saba will always call Bismarck home. He graduated from Bismarck high in 1959 and fondly remembers his family`s restaurant downtown: The California Food Store. A self-proclaimed wanderlust. Saba has traveled the world and he also remembers a 1990 business trip to Baghdad that would be one of the most traumatic experiences of his life.
"My wife was eight and a half months pregnant at the time. And she wasn`t very happy because she wanted to make sure I was home when our baby was born," he said.
And for good reason, the day Saba was to fly home, Iraq invaded Kuwait.
"The troops would rush into the hotel, round us up, put us up against the wall, with guns and we really didn`t know whether we were going to live or die and we were essentially Saddam`s guests. That`s what he called us. He didn`t call us hostages," Saba recalls.
He wasn`t physically shackled but a veil of terror imprisoned him. Fellow hostages covered the spectrum from manic to calm, as depicted in the movie, Argo.
"The important thing I felt was to stay cool. I was maybe cool on the outside. On the inside, I was terrorized. I was, I didn`t know if I was going to live or die. But that wasn`t going to do no good," he said.
After a week, he heard a sign, as he walked through his hotel prison. He remembers it distinctly to this day.
"Engelbert Humperdinck singing, `Please release me, let me go.` And I said, `Thank you, brother, Englebert. I`m out of here.`"
Saba and another American took this cue and found a taxi driver to drive them to the Jordanian border for $100 between the two.
"Iraqi military vehicles would converge on us in every directions, like SWOOSH!"
They were stopped three times by Iraqi troops.
"We just said in Arabic to them, we mean you no harm. I told them I was going back to be with my wife, and you know, our baby. Be back in time for our baby coming. And they ended up being quite friendly. They had guns on the cars, and as soon as we told them this, they said, `Please come out, have tea with us.` We sat, we had tea, and we`re on to the next place."
Saba says respecting people`s culture combined with luck helped him escape to freedom
"I told my wife, that last phone call, I would be home for the birth of our son, and I did."
The motivation to get home to his pregnant wife was portrayed by Ben Affleck`s character in Argo. The movie depicted the 1979 hostage situation in Iran. Because of renewed interest, movie directors are in preliminary talking stages with Saba to explore the untold stories of Saddam Hussein`s guests in 1990.