The other women in his life are so famous: Peggy Say, the stoic sister who kept Terry Anderson’s memory alive through the six years and nine months of his captivity in Lebanon by sharing her pain with reporters; and Sulome, the beguiling 6-year-old who had never met her daddy until two weeks ago, but who danced and sang before the world in hopes that her videotaped image would reach him in his prison.

The spotlight has almost entirely passed by the third woman in Terry Anderson’s life — perhaps because she has deliberately eluded it. In the footage of Anderson’s triumphant passage from Damascus to Wiesbaden to New York and Washington, she is the happy presence at the edge of the frame: 41- year-old Madeleine Bassil, a native of Lebanon and the mother of Sulome.

“She was — she still is — a very quiet lady,” says Chris Drake, who as NBC bureau chief in Beirut in the early ’80s employed Bassil as a translator and radio monitor. Colleagues in the tight-knit world of foreign reporting treat Bassil with delicacy and protectiveness. For one thing, friends say, she has guarded her privacy zealously, in large part to ensure Sulome as normal an upbringing as possible under the circ*mstances.

And for another thing, no one is quite sure how to describe, in the clumsy shorthand of modern journalism, the awkward personal situation in which Bassil found herself six years ago.

On March 16, 1985 — the day Anderson, an Associated Press correspondent, was snatched from a Beirut street — Bassil was more than six months pregnant with his child. They lived together and had made plans to marry, but his divorce was not yet final.

In other words, Madeleine Bassil is Terry Anderson’s fiancee, but Terry Anderson is still technically a married man. His wife, Mihoko, known as Mickey, had left Lebanon in 1984 with the couple’s daughter, Gabrielle, now 15. Friends say they soon began proceedings toward an amicable divorce — but that the paperwork moved with agonizing slowness between Tokyo and war-torn Lebanon.

For the past six years, AP has split Anderson’s salary equally between Bassil and Anderson’s wife, who lives with Gabrielle in Tokyo.

The unresolved situation was “particularly hard because Terry was what we called a straight-arrow kid,” Say’s husband, David, told The Washington Post last year. “He’d been married for 20 years, from the time he was 18.”

Anderson and his first wife met when he was a Marine, stationed in Japan with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.

He and Bassil met some time after 1982, when he was stationed in Beirut, and Bassil returned to Lebanon following years of residence in Africa and Europe. Friends know little about her background, beyond an awareness that her family were Maronite Christians. They say she is fluent in French, English and Arabic.

Says Drake: “There was never any doubt that child or no child, they were planning to get married anyway.”

At the beginning of Anderson’s captivity, Bassil’s friends encouraged her to stay out of the public eye. Many in the press corps were concerned, Drake says, that Anderson’s captors might become angry if they knew their American prisoner had fathered a child by an unmarried Lebanese woman.

Bassil joined Peggy Say in the United States, where Sulome was born on Anderson’s 83rd day in captivity. In March 1986, she moved to Nicosia, Cyprus, where many of her friends from the press corps were based, and took an apartment.

“The best thing, she thought, was to come to Cyprus and be close to Beirut, close to Terry,” says Scheherezade Faramarzi, a former AP reporter in Beirut and a close friend of Bassil.

She left most of the high-profile lobbying to Peggy Say. But three or four times a year — Christmas, Anderson’s birthday, Sulome’s — she would try to get some message to Anderson, often in the form of a videotape of their daughter.

Faramarzi describes Bassil as “a very, very down-to-earth person … very strong. … The worst of her depression was, she felt so bad that Terry wouldn’t see Sulome grow.”

Among the hardest things, she adds, was explaining the situation to Sulome. “She always told her … that her father was in Lebanon,” Faramarzi says. “And he was going to come back but he was being held by bad men.”

Faramarzi spoke by phone to Anderson and Bassil after his release: “She’s finding Terry amazingly not changed, unchanged in a way. … She feels she can pick up the pieces very easily.”

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