On August 14, 2012, Houston native, former U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer, Georgetown Law School student and freelance journalist Austin Tice was detained at a checkpoint while he was reporting in Syria. Five weeks later, a video showed Tice being held captive by armed men. That was the last time anyone has publicly seen Tice, though the federal government strongly believes he's alive.
In fact, last April, the FBI offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to Tice's safe return to the U.S. Now, with the help of restaurants across the world, that amount is likely to grow. On May 2, the National Press Club and other organizations will team up to host a Night Out For Austin Tice, an evening in which participating restaurants will contribute a percentage of revenue to a second fund to be used in conjunction with the FBI's $1 million reward.
The idea for the evening came from Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, who in October proposed a one-night worldwide event that could help raise funds and awareness of Tice's captivity. So far about 50 restaurants in nine states, plus Washington D.C., and Morocco, have signed up. In Houston, only Chris Shepherd's three restaurants—Georgia James, One Fifth Mediterranean, and UB Preserv—have been announced as participants, though additional eateries may be revealed soon.
But more is needed, say Tice's parents Debra and Marc, who hope the night alerts more Houstonians to their son's situation.
"That's another really huge component of this—making people aware," said Debra Tice. "Then, hopefully they'll feel motivated just to write an encouraging word to the powers that be in Washington that it's important to get this journalist home safely."
Debra and Marc have visited Beirut, Lebanon multiple times, just to find information about their son's location or captors. The last six years and eight months have been exhaustive for the Tice family, who are overwhelmed with both worry and hope. Debra and Marc originally didn't want their other children to bear the responsibility of fighting for their Austin's safety, but for this initiative, they stepped up by helping to recruit restaurants.
"It's great to have the girls helping and they've got these long lists, but there's so many places," said Debra. "There's not enough time in the day to ask them all."
As for the restaurants? Shepherd said after learning about Tice, "there wasn't a question"—of course he'd support the initiative.
"First of all, it's important to me to take care of our own, and Austin, as a Houstonian, is one of our own," said Shepherd. "Second, freedom of the press is incredibly important. You can't put a price on credible journalism, especially in the world we live in now. I'm proud to support Austin and his family, as well as journalists who risk everything to report the truth."