WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - August 8, 2009 was a day America remained glued to their television sets as two journalists returned home from North Korea.
It was supposed to be a relatively safe trip, but on a frozen river separating China and North Korea, journalist Laura Ling found herself starring down the barrel of a gun.
Ling, while reporting on human trafficking of North Korean women, crossed enemy lines. "It was the hardest. It was the most difficult situation of my life. But, I guess, it was also one of the biggest test of my strength," she said.
For 140 days, Ling remained captive wondering if she'd ever be free. "There were shifts in my thinking. Sometimes, I would have great hope, and other days, tremendous despair," recalled Ling. "Some days, I felt like it would be my last. Other days, I did see myself living a very long life in a North Korea labor camp."
Then, Ling's prayers were answered. "I was ushered into a room with my colleague, Euna Lee. And these doors opened up, and there, standing before us, was President Clinton. And it was weird because I don't know if it was the lighting of the room or my imagination, but I felt like I saw a halo hovering [over him]. I could feel my freedom coming back to me."
Most people after going through what Ling went through would say, "I'm throwing in the towel". But Ling is still bringing light to this situation. "People say, 'Oh, you're so brave'. Really, the brave people of all of this are the people of North Korea who are struggling every day," she said. "The women I was covering, the people who are going through so much more, and I hope to be able to shine a light on them. They are the real brave people. "
And to a crowd of women of all ages, Ling delivered her message of bravery and hope during the PNC Women in Power luncheon. "We bring women into the community that have been successful. Public figures, the arts, bring them in and have them speak about their experiences and provide opportunities at the 'Y' to see them. And provide some kind of role model and inspiration. Plus it gives us a venue to get to know people," said Mark Stevens, PNC Bank.
The series is becoming so popular, they are moving it to the Palm Beach County Convention Center. "We're real big believers of getting involved in the community and doing things that are a little more different," Craig Grant, PNC Bank added. "There's nothing else quite like this going on in the community. We're very proud.
The luncheons benefit the YWCA of Palm Beach County which is helping young women grow up to be tomorrow's leaders. "In womanhood, some things that most girls don't get to learn, I can learn them," said one girl. "So when I get out there in the world, I'll be able to teach them to other young women."
And maybe, one day, stand before a group of women, just like Laura Ling, and spread a their own message of empowerment.