It happened 38 years ago

Although it’s been nearly 40 years since the arrest of Christopher Boyce for espionage, some memories are never far from the surface.

Time flies. Pretty much everyone agrees that’s not a good thing. But some incidents in life are so traumatic that we find ourselves welcoming the passage of time, as if we just can’t seem to put enough years between ourselves and the moment that turned everything upside down. This is the case with an event that occurred 38 years ago this week in the life of a man named Christopher Boyce.

On January 16, 1977, Boyce was arrested on suspicion of espionage. Three months later, he was convicted in federal court and sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment. He was only 24 years old. With the exception of 19 months spent living on the run after a prison escape in 1980, he would spend the next quarter-century of his life in prison. In 2002, following the intervention of parole advocate Cait Mills, Boyce was granted release. The two were married soon after.

This week marks nearly four decades since the day of Christopher Boyce’s arrest. His childhood friend and accomplice, Andrew Daulton Lee, was arrested 10 days earlier. This month is also the 30th anniversary of the release of The Falcon and the Snowman, the movie that told their story.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve come to know Chris well. It happens when you write a book together. In that time, I’ve observed a few things about him. Like the fact he doesn’t mark anniversaries such as these. He only remembers when reminded, and even then his reaction makes you realize how trivial dates on a calendar really are. Especially when it comes to memories that aren’t far from the surface.

I’ve learned that some scars don’t fade with the passage of time. And that what seems like a lifetime ago for one person is just yesterday for another. Christopher Boyce is a guy who’d just as soon forget the past and spend the rest of his days flying his falcons, but can’t. Many would say it’s a justified punishment. Others would say different. I’ll leave it to you to guess on which side of the argument I fall.

Vince Font is the co-author with Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. Font is also the founder of Glass Spider Publishing, an independent publishing company headquartered in Utah.

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