Interview with Freed Journalist's Fresno Family Members

August 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
One Fresno family is celebrating Thursday morning after the two journalists were freed from North Korea.Euna Lee's husband Michael Saldate grew up in Fresno and his parents were in Burbank to greet their daughter-in-law. They're now back home in Fresno after an emotional reunion.

The Saldates are resting in their West Central Fresno home. They said they never imagined their family would be thrust into a situation that made international headlines.

The Saldate family drove down from their home in West Central Fresno to meet the plane in Burbank. Euna Lee was first greeted with hugs from her husband Michael Saldate and their four-year-old daughter. Lee's father-in-law Frank Saldate and his wife, Karen, also waited in the crowd to welcome her. They say there wasn't a dry eye during the reunion. The Saldates often cared for their granddaughter at their Fresno home while her mother Euna was imprisoned.

They say they never lost hope, even when Euna was sentenced to 12 years of hard labor by the North Korean government. "Knowing she was in the situation she was in, we were angry," Frank Saldate told Action News. "That was a low, where you felt completely helpless."

The Saldates returned home from Southern California late last night and are trying to recover from being on an emotional rollercoaster: "Exhausting, it was totally exhausting," said Karen Saldate. "It really took its toll. But we knew we needed to be strong for Euna's sake, we did."

What concerned the Saldates was how thin Euna looked. They say they noticed it most when they first hugged her at yesterday's reunion. They say she wasn't able to say much about her time in captivity yet. Euna and her husband Michael are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.

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