After watching 'The Bourne Ultimatum', I happened upon this interview of David and Nickki Webb by Mandy Bjork, sister to the famous spy and blogger. I thought you might be interested in some more in depth human interest information.
Mandy: Thank you so much for meeting with me today, and for being willing to answer questions about your lives and the books and movies that were built on them.
Mandy: David, let's start with you. Your hometown is portrayed in the story as being Nixa, Missouri. Where were you born?
David: It is true, I was born in Nixa, but I was an Army brat, and we traveled and lived in many places as I grew up. My mother's parents still live in Nixa, and in my heart, I guess that is where I picture my self as being from.
Mandy: Nickki, how about you? Tell us a little about your childhood, and where you grew up.
Nickki: I'm a mid-western girl. I grew up in Kansas, in a little farming town not far from Newton, Kansas. I grew up on a wheat farm. Growing up, I had not one idea of the turns and twists my life would take. I got a scholarship to Georgetown and studied political science. I was recruited right out of school, and went to Langley for further training.
Mandy: How close to truth did the story line stay? How did it all start?
David: The character of Jason Bourne/David Webb is amalgam of several peoples lives. No one could live though the things that Jason & David lived through in Ludlum's and Lustbader's books and Greengrass' films. If you are asking about the films that have been made to date, I would say that there is an element of truth and a good deal of high tech elaboration in that part of the story. We are a little older than Matt Damon and Julia Stiles, so most of the story occurred in the early 1980's. Real life wasn't as high tech as shown in the story, but the basic story is true. I was an Army Ranger and the fight against terrorism was getting warmer. It seemed like Americans were easy targets for terrorist groups, organized crime - anyone who had a grudge. I heard that a Certain Intelligence Agency was recruiting men to stop just such people. I made it known that I was interested, was contacted and recruited.
Mandy: Did you know each other then?
Nickki: We had met and I suppose that we are dating in a covert kind of way. We had a connection, even if we had to be quiet about it. David was the first of the recruits, and his training/conditioning was brutal. The program consisted of varying amounts of violent physical abuse, sleep deprivation, psychoactive drugs, hypnosis and other aspects that I won't even talk about. I watched from the shadows. Since David was the first, their training/conditioning techniques were not well developed. They made a lot of mistakes on him that didn't have to be repeated on the others. My heart bled for him, but I couldn't interfere in any way, even to wipe off the blood. Working in Treadstone, I kept track, in a quiet way of what was happening to him and I was afraid that if they didn't kill him, that they would kill everything good in him that I loved.
David: I wish I had known that someone was nearby and cared whether I lived or died. Isolating and breaking down the individual was the core of the program, and if you know that even one person cares about you, it gives you strength to carry on. They couldn't let that happen of course.
Mandy: So, like the junk yard dog, you were beaten into submission and made meaner by the day?
David: Not exactly meaner. When they got done with me, I was more of a tool than a person. I wasn't especially mean, I was just kind of dead inside.
Mandy: In the 'Bourne Identity', the first movie, you fail to kill your target, and are shot and almost die for your pains. Did this really happen?
David: In the movie, I couldn't kill Wombosi, and as I tried to escape, he shot me. Real life was not as dramatic, but it followed the same general script. There was a man that I was supposed to kill that had his family nearby. I am still not sure of all the details but I tried to escape and was nearly beaten to death for my pains. I had no weapons, and some good Samartian took me to a hospital. Between the training I had received and the beating I received from the goons, I had no idea of who I was or what to do next. I did work on a fishing boat for some time and hoped that the cobwebs would clear. Of course when a highly trained and extra-legal killing tool goes missing, there is a good deal of desperation. I was targeted to be killed, and somehow, without really knowing why, I was able to evade most and defeat others who were sent to either capture or kill me.
Mandy: You make that sound very matter-of-fact. Can you give us a better idea of how you felt?
David: It is painful to go back to those memories, and I don't like to do it. Watching the the movie (Bourne Identity) should give you a pretty good idea. Not knowing who you are or why you annoyed some one enough to almost kill you is the stuff of nightmares. It was like trying to move through a fog. Part's of one memory would come into focus, but other supporting or contextual memories would fade away, just like when you drive or walk through a fog. It was very frustrating. I didn't know who almost killed me, who I was or whom I could trust. Paranoia rises up and almost chokes you..... is this guy who is clapping me on the back a new friend, and old friend, or an old enemy? I worried that I would be led to the slaughter - my slaughter - and I would have no idea it was even coming, or why. When you worry, you don't sleep well, and that doesn't make your mind work any better either.
Gradually, some memories started to come back. A word, or a picture would flash a picture in my mind, and I started to try and put the jig saw puzzle that was my past back together again.
Mandy: How long in real time did this story take to play out? The movies are years apart, and it seems like a good deal of time elapsed from when you went missing until you jumped into the river?
David: I really have no idea. Nickki?
Nickki: It was about five years. I won't put dates on it, but about six months of conditioning and then I lost track of you until you showed in Europe when I was posted in Berlin. After you and Marie escaped you traveled the world and hid in India for almost 3 years. After Marie was killed you were on every one's mind for another six months, until I heard that you were shot as you jumped into the East river, but they hadn't recovered your body. I did have to smile because I knew in my heart you were still alive.
David: In a way, my life started when I jumped off that building. Hitting the water was like hitting concrete and I felt so broken. For as long as I could remember - from when I woke up after the coma that Wombosi's men had beaten me into, I was either trying to fit together the pieces of my memory, or was trying to track down the men responsible for making me into what I had become. It was a life of murky recollection and vengeance. Getting the memories back and confronting my old trainers was something that I had to do, but not something to build a life on. I was done with killing, done with conflict. Matt Damon can take some amazing beatings in the movie but in real life those injuries stay with you, and a lot of them hurt every day.
I went back to Nixa and visited with my grandparents. I rented a little house down the street from them, and everyday I would go for a run and just drink in the peace. In the afternoons I would go over and visit a little with my Granddad. We played checkers, and cribbage and didn't pay much attention to who won. Grandma told me stories about my aunts and uncles. Sometimes I stayed for supper and she would fry a chicken. Granddad would pick some corn from his garden and we would have a summer time feast. It took a while, but the memories of Nickki started to come back. One day I realized that she had been helping in the background, as best she could all along, lost a good job, lost her future to help me and I had put her on a train and told her that " it gets easier" to run. It was good to have the realization that she cared for me all those long years, but I felt as bad about my self as I ever had. I started making calls and making plans to find her that very day.
So there is another chapter in the David Webb/Nickki Parsons story that still has to be told, but telling it might get some good people in trouble. You will just have to know that it took me almost another year to track her down, and extract her from an unpleasant situation. Now we are just trying to live 'happily ever after'.
Mandy: Thank you for talking to us tonight. We all hope that you can live 'happily ever after'. Good night