The Wednesday morning release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal from an Iranian prison saw their colleagues, friends and mentors in the Bay Area overjoyed at the end of an exhausting wait.
The hikers' families endured numerous dashed hopes throughout the two-year imprisonment. Iranian authorities often hinted at progress, only to then announce further delays, or worse, fall completely silent on the issue.
"A part of my relief is in what I heard Shane's mother saying last week, when she said, 'I feel this is now the real thing.' And then there was a setback the next day," said Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media in San Francisco and Bauer's editor.
"The internal politics in Iran seem to have had a total choke hold on (Bauer and Fattal) and so today's news is such a welcome relief," she said.
Ken Light, a professor who taught Bauer at UC Berkeley's graduate school of journalism, said he envisioned his former student as surviving his prison experience as a "very people-oriented person, good at connecting," who would have had some skills to communicate with the people around him while imprisoned, despite not knowing the native language.
Close agreed, saying, "Shane is a very steely and determined, but also empathetic person. I'm assuming he's learned Farsi by now."
"But you can only imagine," Light said, "after a year you begin to lose faith, and you're not getting information. I imagine he'll need some time
But both Light and Close said they see Bauer as an unstoppable photojournalist and that they expect to see him on the road again soon after he's recovered from his travails.
"Shane is a true Marco Polo," Close said. "He's an explorer, and a gifted one. The state of global journalism needs people like Shane. You can't get this off translated, computer-driven stats or websites. You need to experience the world. That's what his goal was: to experience the world and share it with news."
Close herself was a world-traveling journalist exploring Southeast Asia in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, she said.
"And one of my thoughts this morning — this is going to get me into trouble — but if I had to be arrested and detained, I would rather be in Iran than Mexico, or Somalia, or Pakistan at this point," she said. "What is striking is how dangerous the world has become for American reporters... I never imagined the kind of bravery and courage it would take to go out and be a freelance reporter today.
"And Shane, I can bet, within a very short period of time, is going to be out on the road again," she said. "He is a person who is really filled with a love of exploring,
Bauer's fiance, Sarah Shourd, is an Oakland resident who was detained with him and Fattal until late last year. She has been traveling the country since her release, fighting for her friends' freedom.
"If I were marooned on a desert island, I'd want to be stuck with Sarah," said Close, who only worked with Shourd a handful of times. "She came back and, no holds barred, she punched back into the struggle for the release of her two colleagues. She was everywhere."