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O'Brien: Mother stays strong for kidnapped daughter

By Soledad O'Brien
CNN

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN anchors and correspondents share their experiences in covering news.

Soledad O'Brien
Soledad O'Brien interviews Mary Beth Carroll, mother of kidnapped journalist.

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Behind the Scenes
Iraq
Media

BETHESDA, Maryland (CNN) -- Within a minute of meeting Mary Beth Carroll you know she has a strength about her.

Even in this horribly difficult situation, Mary Beth doesn't crack -- focusing on the points she wants to emphasize about her daughter Jill, the 28-year-old journalist abducted in Iraq.

As we prepare to begin under the hot and bright lights, she is calm, reading through a statement that's been printed in a large font and double-spaced so she can look into the camera and talk directly to her daughter's captors.

It is amazing to me that a woman whose daughter's life is at risk can be so strong. She is clearly very aware of what is at stake.

Before the interview begins we talk about children.

A friend of mine, I tell her, once said all mothers hope only that their children find their passion in life. Mary Beth agrees -- and when we start our interview, tells me that it was Jill's passion for the people of Iraq, and her desire to tell their stories, that lead her to work in one of the world's most dangerous countries.

"Jill didn't want to parachute in," Mary Beth says -- a term journalists use when we quickly jump in, and often out, of a story. Mary Beth said Jill wanted to learn about the people and their customs. She worked among and befriended many Iraqis, always making sure to blend in as she did her work.

She wore native dress and spoke Arabic, and was well aware of the danger.

"She knew what the risks were and she chose to accept those, because what she was doing... was important," Jill's mother tells me.

Mary Beth Carroll says she and her daughter talked about the dangers, and the possibility that Jill could one day be kidnapped.

"I told her frankly how I felt if she was kidnapped, what I would be thinking, and supporting her and knowing that she was doing what she loved and what she thought was very important to do."

That conversation, and Jill's passion, has been a comfort for Mary Beth and her family, as the hostage-takers' deadline draws near.

As we near the end of our interview, I ask Mary Beth if she has a message for Jill -- she smiles and says Jill already knows what she's thinking: that she loves her and supports her, and knows her strength of mind can pull her through what is a horrific circumstance.

Our interview ends, and Mary Beth is relieved. Family members come over to hug her. Her daughter Katie says, "Mom you did great!"

She's right -- friendliness and strength of character is clearly a family trait.

Being strong in impossible circumstances may be something Jill's mother has passed to her daughter.

We wait to hear the latest from Iraq about Jill Carroll, hopeful she is relying on her inner strength, just as her mother is.

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