Outside the war zone, nobody knows much about who is holding him or why. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading directly to his location, recovery and return. According to his family, Mr. Tice filed his last story and planned to leave Syria for Lebanon on Aug. 14, 2012, having just turned 31 years old. He got into a taxi in the Damascus suburb of Daraya but never made it to the border. Five weeks later, a 43-second video emerged that showed Mr. Tice being held by a group of unidentified armed men. The only message attached was “Austin Tice is Alive.” The family says, “This is the only information we have received from his captors. No one has contacted us to claim responsibility, because of this, we cannot say for certain who is holding him.”
That kind of unknown is a terrible burden for his loved ones and friends. Covering war is navigating an ocean of uncertainty, especially acute in conflicts such as Syria, seemingly without rules or fathomable patterns of behavior. Every day, journalists selflessly accept that risk out of a conviction that readers should know what is happening on the battlefield. Some may do so in hope that better information might help the public and politicians make better decisions. Some want to make sure that the victims are not forgotten, neither their suffering nor their bravery, and that the world’s evils are exposed.
Mr. Tice was among this type. He wrote in July 2012 that he was sitting “right in the middle of a brutal and still uncertain civil war” because “every person in this country fighting for their freedom wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the knowledge that death could visit them at any moment. They accept that reality as the price of freedom.” He added, “I’m living, in a place, at a time and with a people where life means more than anywhere I’ve ever been — because every single day people here lay down their own for the sake of others. Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s the greatest feeling of my life.”
His sacrifice has been immense. Now let him come home.