A British woman first asked Saddam Hussein why children were being used as "pawns in something they can't understand." But it was Kevin Bazner who calmly suggested to Saddam that it would be "a gesture of sincerity to release all of our women and children."
Everything else the 35-year-old American said on yesterday's Iraqi broadcast -- aired here on CNN -- was lost in faulty audio transmission. But to the families holding a month-long vigil for loved ones trapped in Iraq and Kuwait, the slight man in the blue striped shirt became an instant hero simply by saying those words.
"Leave it to Kevin," said Bazner's sister, Pati Heath of Farmington Hills, Mich. "That's the kind of person he is -- he'd have the courage to ask a difficult question."
Bazner and his family -- his wife Dawn, 35, their 6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and their 6-month-old son, David -- have become symbols of the ordinary families held by the Iraqi government. After a month-long family reunion in the United States, the Bazners were on their way back to Malaysia, where he works as international vice president for A & W Restaurants and where they have lived for the past two years. In a fluke of bad timing, the family was among the British Airways passengers detained Aug. 2 when the flight landed in Kuwait for refueling.
Their plight first came to the public's attention Aug. 15, when Ted Koppel questioned Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz about the 36 Americans who were transferred from Kuwait to the Al-Rashid hotel in Baghdad.
"There is, for example, a family -- I talked to the father this morning," said Koppel, who did not identify them by name but showed a picture of the Bazner family. "He has a 6-month-old baby boy who has a hernia condition. He has a 6-year-old daughter and, of course, his wife is with him." What, asked Koppel, was going to happen to the mother and two children?
Despite assurances from Aziz, the Bazner family was not released but transferred from the hotel to an undisclosed location. Yesterday's broadcast was the first time since Aug. 14 that Heath and the rest of Bazner's family in the United States saw that he was safe and, for the moment, well.
"He was adult when he was born," said Heath. "He's always been grown up -- that's the best way I can describe him. He's level-headed. Not a whole lot ruffles Kevin's feathers."
His parents and six brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the United States, have been in constant touch with the State Department since the Aug. 2 invasion. While the Bazners were held in the hotel, they were able to receive and send three messages through State Department personnel to their relatives here. The last one said the baby was crawling and teething and Elizabeth was swimming every day.
"And he said the waiting was hard but our messages were a great morale-booster," said Heath.
Now that there is the chance Dawn and the children may be released, Heath said the family was debating where she would wait for Kevin: Back to Malaysia? Or maybe Michigan?
"Then we said, 'Why are we even thinking about this?' " she said. " 'Kevin already has it all planned out.' "