October 2, 2002 - Knoxville News Sentinel: Peace Corps couple escapes Ivory Coast

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Peace Corps couple escapes Ivory Coast

Read and comment on this story from the Knoxville News Sentinel about two Peace Corps Volunteers, Jonathan and Carrie Brunger, and how they were evacuated from the strife-torn West African nation of Ivory Coast at:

Maryville couple escapes Ivory Coast*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Maryville couple escapes Ivory Coast

Parents did same in 1960s' Benin

By Michael Silence, News-Sentinel staff writer
October 2, 2002

Captions: Blount County natives Jonathan, left, and Carrie Brunger were recently evacuated from the Ivory Coast to Accra, Ghana, while serving with the Peace Corps. Jonathanís parents including Ann, right, also faced turmoil in Africa.

Blount County residents Jonathan and Carrie Brunger celebrated their second wedding anniversary two weeks ago Tuesday.

Twelve days later they were evacuated from the strife-torn West African nation of Ivory Coast.

And it wasn't until that military-escorted evacuation on Sunday that Jonathan's parents, Scott and Ann Brunger of Blount County, finally heard from the two 26-year-olds.

The elder Brungers had some idea what their son and daughter-in-law were going through. Shortly after getting married in 1968, the elder Brungers were evacuated during a coup in the African nation of Benin.

Carrie and Jonathan, Peace Corps volunteers, are unharmed and safe in Accra, the capital of Ghana. They arrived there Sunday after being evacuated by French military and American Special Forces.

And if there's any doubt that Africa is in the Brungers' blood, Jonathan and Carrie after the evacuation ended up in the same country with Jonathan's brother, Joel, who is spending his junior year at the University of Ghana.

"We are very grateful that our children are safe, but it's not okay that that country (Ivory Coast) is poised for a violent war," said Ann Brunger, who is the pastor of the Highland Presbyterian Church in Maryville.

The elder Brungers lived in Africa for five years shortly after they got married, and Ann Brunger spends a significant amount of time educating people on the attributes and problems of the continent.

Scott, an associate professor of economics at Maryville College, has done work in Africa in his area of expertise.

The elder Brungers did not worry too much about Jonathan and Carrie.

From their experience in Africa, "I knew that the people were great. The village chief had pledged they would be safe," Ann Brunger said.

Carrie and Jonathan went to Ivory Coast early last year and were outside the northern city of Korhogo, one of two held by the rebels since a bloody uprising on Sept. 19.

They were among the "last wave" of evacuees on Sunday on two military transport planes escorted by combat helicopters, Ann Brunger said.

She said both her son and daughter-in-law sounded no worse for the experience when they talked by phone Sunday.

"They went through the (rebel) city (of Korhogo) and checkpoints, and they (the rebels) were very polite," Ann Brunger said.

From there on motorcycles they were taken to a Baptist compound where several foreigners sought refuge.

Ann Brunger said the rebels have a lot of money and were buying food rather than taking it from people. She also said they are disciplined, were not attacking foreigners and were "not just running around abusing their power."

Immediate plans for Jonathan and Carrie are uncertain. Their Peace Corps service ends in February but Ann Brunger said they didn't sound like they were in any hurry to leave Africa.

Before leaving for the Peace Corps, Jonathan worked for the Blount County chapter of the American Red Cross and Carrie was an environmental educator at Camp Wesley Woods, a United Methodist owned and operated camp in Walland.

Michael Silence can be reached at 865-342-6310 or silence@knews.com.

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