Amanda Lindhout tells her story on first day of IDays

Journalist captured in Somalia shares her harrowing tale of being held captive for 460 days

Lindhout spoke to a full Grand Hall about the trauma she endured while being held captive. (Justin Moore/The Omega)

Crowds flocked to TRU for an intensely moving talk by Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout. Filling the Grand Hall with nearly 700 people on the opening night of IDays, Lindhout spoke of the trauma she endured while being held hostage for 460 days.

Lindhout had the crowd on the edge of their seats as she recounted the horrors of her time as a hostage in Somalia. She spoke of experiences one couldn’t imagine, and of the strength and strategy it took to maintain composure. 

Speaking of the personal strength and determination she built up while enduring these horrors, Lindhout attributed much of her strong will and determination to her less-than-easy childhood in Red Deer, Alta. 

Raised by a single mother and constantly surrounded by abuse and chaos, Lindhout sought out travelling as her escape from it all. As a child, she would turn to the backdated pages of National Geographic. 

Her curiosity led her to tell the stories of far away lands which unfortunately led her to Somalia, along with photographer Nigel Brennan.

During her time held captured, Lindhout spent a lot of time trapped in her mind for the sake of her sanity.

“And at this point in captivity, I thought, ‘This is how people go crazy,’ and I was racking my brain to think of anything I have ever learned about survival,” recounted Lindhout.

To keep her mind safe while her body was in peril, Lindhout would walk the perimeter of her dark room and imagine the iconic views of the seawall in Stanley Park.

“I could picture it in the most granular detail, I could lose hours like that,” said Lindhout. “I was walking around that room in Somalia but in my mind, I’m walking the seawall.”

During that intense time of disparity, Lindhout starting taking more and more risks to save herself and Brennan. Leading up to the duo’s first attempted escape, the pair had been in captivity for nearly five months and the surveillance had finally lightened. 

“That sense of despair led me to take some big risks, to communicate with my friend Nigel,” said Lindhout.

During trips to the washroom, Lindhout and Brennan would exchange a few secret moments and during those conversations, they planned the escape through the bathroom window; an escape that would later prove unsuccessful.

“I went through it all. Believe me, if you’re sitting here thinking, ‘But what was she doing going to Somalia in the first place? That’s not a very good idea.’ Believe me, I know and I knew it then but I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t take it back,” admitted Lindhout. “I will own it now, you will never hear me try and defend that decision. I can say that was probably my worst mistake but there I was.”

Lindhout’s experience facing the abuse, isolation and horror is the perfect storm to break a person down, but in moments of pure perseverance, Lindhout maintained a sense of strength that one would attribute to a superhero. 

Lindhout attributed much of her personal strength to the perseverance of those around her, feeding off the energy they put into saving her. Her mother especially, put in the work to raise the insane amount of ransom her kidnappers were holding her at.

While she is now home safe in Canada with her kidnapper held in prison in here as well, Lindhout still experiences the trauma she faced in her day-to-day life. This has not, however, changed her outlook on travelling but instead provided her with a notion of awareness to the dangers.

Lindhout retells her harrowing tale in her memoir, A House in the Sky. She noted that this memoir has been picked up for a Hollywood project and said to keep your eyes out for it in the coming years.