Father’s Release from Danbury

Father’s Release from Danbury

Carol Bechtel
July 20, 2011

On the night of July 20, 1984, at 11:00 p.m., Father entered the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. The scene could have been compared to a black and white movie: tall lights on the prison grounds glaring and harsh, gray gravel, black sky. Faces were colorless and hard. Only faint outlines of the landscape were visible. The air was chilly, and a media helicopter hovered overhead like a preying metallic insect in the dark. The cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking, foulmouthed reporters made vindictive remarks, rejoicing to see Father go in.

Father’s car drove around a curved driveway and stopped at one end of the main building. Everyone got out, a prison door suddenly opened, and it seemed like there wasn’t even time to say goodbye as first Father and then Mr. Kamiyama were ushered in. The door closed quickly, and with finality.

Like a Technicolor Movie
But the morning of July 4, 1985, was like a Technicolor movie. It seems that everything was green, and this time the only glaring light was from the morning sun. When the New York City Tribune car I was riding in went through the “gate” of the prison, there wasn’t even a security guard. A bed of very red geraniums added a splash of color in the driveway. I he place looked well-kept, like a golf course, and the sky was absolutely clear and blue. There was a water tower, the cream-colored main building, and to the left, the path that Father often walked, winding gently up a hill to the minimum security building.

While waiting behind the designated media area where we parked, I couldn’t help overhearing the chit-chat of the reporters. They sounded the same as one year ago. Some were taping a preface to the news story they would add later. One man was talking into a mike and camera, sarcastically calling the audience’s attention to the fact that Father had served only 11 months of an 18-month sentence. It was easy to see why Father and our church have been misunderstood, for it is impossible for the public to receive truth when the “transmitters” so unabashedly bias their reports.

Suddenly, the car with Mother came, followed by a few other vehicles with Unification Church leaders and ministers of various denominations. They went around the same curved driveway, and Mother’s car drove up to that same door Father entered one year ago. I could see Mother getting out, along with Hyo Jin Nim, Rev. Kwak, Dr. Pak, Hyo Yol Kim, and some East Garden security brothers — all in a cluster — and then the door opened.

It was slightly dim in the entryway. Because the press was back about 200 feet, only the cameramen with telephoto lenses could see inside clearly. One after another I could hear them saying, “There he is!” “I got him!”

The figure of a man in a royal blue shirt stood inside for a moment. Then, smiling, Father emerged — tanned and healthy-looking. He gently embraced Mother and hugged Dr. Pak and Rev. Kwak. He never stopped smiling. I could hear shutter after shutter clicking.

Ministers Show Their Respect
Then, in a respectfully timed and orderly manner, the thirteen ministers who had come to show support for Father began walking in a line from the main entrance to that side door located also in the front of the building. It was a deeply moving moment. The two doors were not close to each other, for the building is long, so their walk took on an added feeling of seriousness and showed their commitment. When they neared Father, they circled around him, widening the cluster. Father embraced each one. They stood together for a few minutes and then all heads bowed as Father offered a short prayer in front of the prison.

Then, just before Father stepped into the car, he raised his arms to the press in victory. That picture was seen on all the TV stations and printed in many newspapers. The shutters kept clicking incessantly. That will be an image history will remember.

Finally, Father’s car and the two others from East Garden drove away from that door forever, past the bright bed of geraniums and out to the road leading home.

I thought of different things: how Bill and Larry must have cried at Father’s going, how the other prisoners may feel an emptiness and come to understand the meaning of the word “Father,” how nobody will ever keep cell A-7 as clean as Father did, how Mother will never have to drive here again and leave Father behind at the end of the day.

Father’s official prison term is not yet over. He is only a little more physically free for these final weeks than he was before. Until August 20, he will be spending his nights at Phoenix House, a halfway house in Brooklyn, New York. During the day Father will be free to attend to church affairs. He will be able to leave the house as early as 7:00 a.m. each morning, but will have to return no later than 10:00 p.m. on the evenings he is required to be there. It is possible he will be given permission to stay home on weekends.

Father’s Hands
I look forward to the day when Father doesn’t have to do menial work anymore. I think of Father’s hands. We have seen them taking Mother’s hand, holding the True Children, sliding into his pockets slowly, or effortlessly holding a piece of chalk while he speaks.

Those are like the hands of God. These “God’s hands” washed toilets in a prison for one year. Finally I can begin to comprehend the greatness of God and His love — that He would come even to the latrines of hell, and wash them, in order to save us.