Thirty years after the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, some former hostages are trying to forget their 444 days in captivity, while others intend to memorialize the "dark day" with those who endured it firsthand.
L. Bruce Laingen, 87, was the U.S. charge d'affaires in Tehran — the highest ranking diplomat in the country — when the American embassy was overtaken by militants and radical Iranian students on Nov. 4, 1979, in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution. He was among 52 American embassy workers held captive until Jan. 20, 1981.
To mark Wednesday's anniversary, Laingen said he planned to have dinner with Michael Howland, who was assistant chief of security at the embassy, and Victor Tomseth, who was a senior political officer there. All three men were held at the Iranian Foreign Ministry for more than 14 months before being released.
"We don't observe this day, this is a black day," Laingen said, adding the dinner alongside their spouses will be "not to celebrate, but to remember."
Retired Air Force Col. David Roeder, meanwhile, said he won't do "anything special" to mark the anniversary.
"It's been 30 years, let's move on," Roeder told FoxNews.com. "It's been just another day for 30 years now. In fact, I would be a bit surprised if anyone other than the media would remember this. It's just not something that stays with you for that long."
Of his 14 months in captivity, Roeder, 70, said two memories stand out in particular — the failed rescue attempt and threats by his captors to harm his disabled son.
"During one of the interrogations, they threatened to kidnap him because I wasn't cooperating and send various portions of his body — toes and fingers were mentioned," he said. "Here you are sitting in a cell and you don't have any way of knowing that someone is watching your family, you have no way of warning them."
Roeder said he was a "difficult hostage," defying his captors whenever possible.
"I didn't spend a lot of time sitting in the corner trying to figure out who to blame on how I got there," he said. "You had a pay a price every now and then for that, though."
Roeder lost 50 pounds during the first six months of captivity and had to warn relatives to be prepared to see a different man return home.
"I didn't like how I looked," he said. "It was a shock when I got to the hospital and looked in the mirror. It was almost like, 'Who the hell is that guy?'"
Three decades later, Roeder, now living in Pinehurst, N.C., said the United States needs to start acting like the "world's superpower" in regards to Iran.
"I have this philosophy that if you have a cancer, you don't sit around and think about it, you cut it out," he said. "Iran is a cancer in that region and in the entire world."
Laingen, of Bethesda, Md., said he's growing restless regarding what he considers time lost in the United States' effort to engage the autocratic regime.
"Why have we waited 30 long years to develop a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran?" Laingen told FoxNews.com. "We have waited far too long and we've got to get on with it. It's damn late and at this point, I'm very impatient."
Laingen said both countries have been "delinquent" in focusing directly on the nuclear ambitions of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but noted slight "progress" in Geneva, where the United States, Russia and China hammered out a deal last month that would have sent most of Iran's known stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia in exchange for reprocessed uranium for a medical research reactor. Iran, however, later rejected that proposal, although Obama administration officials remain hopeful a deal can eventually be brokered.
"We've got to find a way to do this," Laingen continued. "Let's go on with it."
Meanwhile, in Tehran, Iranian security forces used batons and tear gas to disrupt anti-government marches on Wednesday during state-sanctioned rallies to mark the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Emassy takeover, according to witnesses and state media.
No injuries or arrests were immediately reported in the clashes in Haf-e-Tir Square, less than a mile from the annual anti-American protests outside the former U.S. Embassy.
Laingen noted that while U.S. officials have stopped using the term "Axis of Evil" in reference to Iran, Iraq and North Korea, protesters in Iran continue to wish death to Americans.
"We heard it [Tuesday] in Tehran, that crowd chanting in front of the stolen embassy, chanting 'Death to America,'" he said. "That is absolutely ridiculous."
Laingen, originally of Minnesota, recently attended a conference on Middle Eastern affairs at the University of Kentucky, where he was joined by fellow former hostages John Limbert and Bill Daugherty.
"I hope we're helping others, we for sure help ourselves," Laingen said of such opportunities to talk about his time in captivity. "We're compelled to think and it's useful for raising awareness with the problems we're engaged in today. Policy differences have to resolved, but they have to be understood first."
Although a self-described "optimist," Laingen said he's unsure negotiations involving Iran's nuclear ambitions will end successfully.
"I'm an optimist by nature, I've been an optimist my whole life," he said. "I'm optimistic in the sense it hasn’t ended, but I'm not optimistic it's going to go anywhere fast. We'll see what Iran wants to do with the offer we made."
If given the chance to address Ahmadinejad directly, Laingen said he'd suggest the nation follow the paths of countries like Brazil, South Africa or Liberia, which backed off nuclear ambitions.
"I would say 'Let's get off the dime, let's start talking,'" Laingen said. "Let's come to an appreciation and get on with the need to find a way to focus on our common interests."
Noting Wednesday's anniversary, President Obama insisted he wants the U.S. and Iran to move beyond the "path of sustained suspicion, mistrust and confrontation" that has followed the hostage crisis.
The crisis "deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice," Obama said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
"This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation," the statement continued. "I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. ... We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community.
"Iran must choose," Obama said. "We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for. ... It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity and justice for its people."