ROSE HILL, Kan. - Gracia Burnham picks up her daughter's backpack and slings it across her shoulder. The memory hits with such force that it knocks her back - back a year, back to the jungle.
For a moment, she is a hostage again, marching at gunpoint up a mountain - filthy, famished, hauling uncooked rice in an old green pack.
The flashback dissolves. She is again in Kansas and continues walking toward her minivan.
Burnham does not let the memories haunt her. But she cannot erase that year of terror.
For 376 days, she and her husband, Martin, were held hostage by Muslim militants in the wilds of the Philippines. After months of failed negotiations, the Philippine army staged a rescue raid last June. In the chaos, Martin Burnham was shot and killed. And Gracia Burnham, 44, returned to their three children to face the challenges of a very different world.
It has been a year now, and the Burnhams still struggle to accept their new life here, under the broad prairie sky. They miss the father, the husband they buried. They ache for a home left behind.
Martin Burnham and his wife moved from Wichita, Kan., to the Philippines in 1986. As a missionary pilot, he delivered mail and supplies to people who spread the Gospel. The kids grew up there, flying in their dad's red-and-white Cessna to mahogany forests and beaches, to mountain villages brushed by clouds. They rode motorbikes down to a waterfall and played soccer with their parents.
Life in Kansas is different. It feels splintered.
"There's always some place to run off to," Burnham says: a game, a practice, a lesson. "Americans stay busy all the time. There's no end to it."
Mindy, 13, misses helping her mom make pizza from scratch. They don't seem to have time to do that in Kansas.
Twelve-year-old Zach misses the river and his inner tube. "I don't fit in here," he says. "I'm different."
During the year his parents were held captive, Jeff, 16, taped all his football games. He couldn't wait to show them to his dad. Now, he says sports are stupid. All he wants is to learn to fly.
The Burnhams have all they need in Kansas - more than they ever had before. The community of Rose Hill built them a brick house on Primrose Lane. A local dealer donated a new Dodge Caravan. Just the other day, landscapers came by, unasked, to lay down sod. Burnham is grateful. But she also feels disoriented.
She and her husband dedicated their lives to serving others. Now, she is the one being served. Strangers have bought them furniture and cooked them meals. Burnham says she feels "humbled." And so alone.
"All kinds of people say, `If you ever need anything, call me.' But that doesn't take care of the loneliness in my heart."
"Do I wish Martin were here? Of course I do," she says. "But the truth is, he's better off than we are. Why would he want to come back here? To pay the bills? To take out the trash?"
The Burnhams were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a resort in the Philippines when three men pointing M-16s burst into their beach cabin at dawn. It was May 27, 2001.
Herded onto a speedboat with 18 other hostages, the Burnhams learned that they were captives of the Abu Sayyaf, a guerrilla force fighting a "holy war" against the Philippine government.
Their captors described themselves as "the Osama bin Laden group"; the name meant nothing to the Burnhams. The guerrillas said their goal was to build a pure Islamic state, as the Taliban did in Afghanistan. Failing that, they said, they wanted to go to America and find jobs.
So began a nightmarish odyssey. On the run from the Philippine army, the Abu Sayyaf marched their captives through the jungle after dark. Martin Burnham was handcuffed most of the time. Gracia Burnham was ordered to haul ammunition for the terrorists.
"For more than a year, I couldn't make any choices for myself at all," Burnham recalls, sitting on her deck in Kansas. "It was `You sit here. You pee there. You sleep here.'" When she got back, she says, the simple act of choosing a salad dressing overwhelmed her.
Within a week, the Abu Sayyaf had killed two Filipino captives and released several others for ransom. On June 11, 2001, they beheaded the only other American in the group, tourist Guillermo Sobero, a contractor from Southern California.
By late fall, the only hostages left were the Burnhams and Ediborah Yap, a Filipino nurse. (Yap, a mother of four, would be killed with Martin Burnham in the rescue.)
There were long stretches of starvation - nine days, once, without a meal. Gracia Burnham would chew on plants. When her captors stumbled upon a village, they would commandeer supplies.
Just before Christmas that year, the Abu Sayyaf took the hostages deeper into hiding. An anonymous benefactor, contacted by Gracia Burnham's parents, paid a $330,000 ransom. The Abu Sayyaf celebrated with fried chicken. Still, they would not free the missionaries. They were holding out for $1 million.
Gracia Burnham thought she could hear God laughing at her.