The mothers of three American hikers held for 10 months in Iran know that their visit with their children may be brief so they've thought about what they want to say and do.
Cindy Hickey wants to make sure her son and the two friends imprisoned with him see that there's a future in which they're free - a light at the end of the tunnel.
"We want to see our kids and let them know: We're going to do everything we possibly can. ... This will be done," Hickey said Sunday after arriving in New York. The trio expect to fly to Iran within days.
Hickey's son, 27-year-old Shane Bauer, his girlfriend, Sarah Shourd, and their friend Josh Fattal were arrested along the Iraqi border last July and accused by Iran of spying. Relatives say the three were on vacation in the scenic Kurdistan region of northern Iraq and, if they crossed the border, it was by accident.
Now that she and the other mothers have been granted visas to Iran and believe they'll be able to visit their children, Laura Fattal is intent on using whatever time she gets with her son to listen.
The suburban Philadelphia woman wants to hear about her 27-year-old son's day-to-day existence and how the trio has gotten by. They've been permitted so few visits from the outside - only three by the Swiss diplomats charged with visiting them in prison since the U.S. has no official presence in Iran, she says. She wants to give them the chance to be heard.
Nora Shourd wants to squeeze her daughter extra tight. Not just for a hug - although there's that too. She wants to feel through the loose covering she expects 31-year-old Sarah will be wearing to make sure she's not just skin and bones.
And the mothers want to give them letters and photographs that they hope their children will be allowed to keep with them - tangible pieces of home. For Sarah, who her family says is kept alone in a cell for all but about 30 minutes a day, her mother has brought pens and empty books, in the hopes she'll be able to write. There are photos of Sarah's sister's wedding, which she missed.
Bauer's youngest sister, Shannon, made a tiny booklet for her brother that folds out into a large photo spread covered in messages.
"We think about you every day," one note reads. "I always try to keep you with me on nice days so you can feel the sun."
Nora Shourd worries especially about the effect that near-solitary confinement may be having on her always social daughter. With no one to talk to, Sarah had become seriously depressed, Nora Shourd says she was told by the Swiss diplomats who visited the trio in April. The diplomats also reported that Sarah was suffering a serious gynecological condition, while Bauer had a stomach ailment.
"These kids haven't had the simple basic stuff that they get from their mothers for a long time now," said Shourd. "We want to give them as much of that as we can in our visits. I don't know how we can do that other than to give them the hope that they'll walk out that door."
The mothers, too, have given up much. Hickey has indefinitely closed the business she's owned for years. Nora Shourd has taken a leave of absence from work, sublet her Oakland, Calif., home and moved in with Hickey in rural Pine City, Minn. She's postponed having necessary surgery while dealing with the crisis, she says, although she doesn't want to give any details.
Sitting now in a hotel room in Manhattan, the first step of their journey to Iran over, Laura Fattal shares what she calls "such a good day dream" with the other two women. She pictures standing all of them in a group hug with their kids, and then being able to bring them home.
It's a vision that seems so close to all of them. They say they're convinced they may be able to leave Iran accompanied by their children, who have not been brought to trial or publicly charged with a crime.
Hickey knows there's another possibility. But it's one she says she tries not to think about because it's so overwhelming.
"Going to see them, and coming home without them, and knowing they have to stay in those same conditions would be overwhelming," she says.
This program aired on May 17, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.