Quiet, Private Homecoming in Place for Crew of Hijacked Ship
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Departing: Mombasa, Kenya. Arriving: Prince George's County, Maryland.
The crew of the Maersk Alabama boarded a chartered jet yesterday and completed a last, unlikely leg of an odyssey that began a week earlier with a burst of gunfire and a pirate attack off the Horn of Africa.
A plane carrying about 30 people, including the 19 members of the ship's crew and several company officials, landed at 12:55 a.m. today at Andrews Air Force Base. About three dozen waiting family members, many of them children, walked in the dark across the rainy tarmac to meet their loved ones. Many waved American flags as the plane taxied toward them.
"I'm very excited," one woman said minutes before the door to the aircraft opened about 1:05 a.m.
The crew members emerged smiling and waving, their descent lit by dozens of camera flashes.
"I'm happy to see my family," said a man with a child in his arms.
John White, one of the crewmen, said they cheered on board the plane as it descended over Washington.
"God bless America," he told reporters.
The seamen were to spend the night at National Harbor, where their family members arrived throughout the day.
After landing at Andrews, the crew was whisked to a private meeting area on the base to reunite with wives, children and parents. Chartered buses were to take them on the 10-mile trip to Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.
"I'm going to say howdy," Bill Evans of Plano, Tex., said while waiting for the arrival of his nephew Colin Wright. "That's what we Aggies say to each other."
The ship's captain, Richard Phillips, was not on the flight. His return was delayed when the USS Bainbridge, the destroyer that led the rescue, was diverted to aid a U.S.-flagged ship that came under attack from pirates yesterday.