“My name is Kayla Mueller. I need your help.”
Those words were a brief assurance to then-25-year-old Kayla Mueller‘s concerned parents not long after she was taken hostage by Islamic State militants while doing service work in Syria in 2013.
“I’ve been here too long and I’ve been very sick,” Kayla, who was wearing a black headscarf, said in the 10-second long video. “It’s very terrifying here.”
Kayla, a Prescott, Arizona, native was taken by ISIS in Aleppo, Syria, with a Doctors Without Borders contractor. She was held for 1.5 years, reportedly dying in Feb. 2015.
The video was sent by email to one of Kayla’s friends almost a month after she went missing. The friend passed the clip on to the FBI, who in turn, released it to Carl and Marsha Mueller.
“You just go into almost a catatonic state, I think. You can’t even stand up,” Carl tells 20/20 of seeing the video in 2013.
Adds Marsha, “I saw how thin she looked, but I saw that her eyes were very clear and steady. It broke my heart, but I also saw her strength.”
The Muellers turned to the nongovernmental aid organizations for which their daughter worked, but found little help. Instead, they were told their daughter’s release was in the government’s hands. They say that Doctors Without Borders didn’t provide a crucial ISIS email address to them until two months after receiving it from workers freed from captivity.
In May 2014, the family got more proof of life in the form of an audio clip after beginning negotiations with ISIS over email. It was the last they heard from Kayla.
The 20/20 special will also feature interviews with Kayla’s fellow captives, and further examine the communication between ISIS and Carl and Marsha.
20/20‘s “The Girl Left Behind” airs on Friday, at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.