He walked outside the Air Force hospital, over to where the television cameras and reporters were, and said he was one of 52 stories.
Bruce German, 44, a budget officer who worked in the basement of the U.S. Emabssy in Tehran, told of a night of terror and days of wondering whether America and the Carter administration still cared about him.
He recalled combing through precious copies of Sporting News, which continued to be received in the mail sporadically by some of the hostages, for details about life back in America.
Now, enjoying freedom, he declared how proud he is to be an American and how much he looks forward to seeing his wife and family again at home in Rockville. He wants to stay in the Foreign Service, German said.
Asked, however, if he would ever return to Iran, he quipped, "Go back? Only in a B52."
German arrived in Iran six weeks before the embassy was seized. On Sunday, Nov. 4 1979, he was in his office on what he thought would be just a normal work day. He heard shouting and chanting outside, and he recalls moving upstairs to a more secure part of the building.
Although videotapes of the seizure have been made available to the former hostages here as part of their reorientation, German said he and some of the other ex-captives have preferred not to watch.
"It's like reliving a horror, and I don't think we're ready for that yet. If you've got a wound, why pour salt on it?"
In the beginning, the food the hostages recieved "wasn't bad," since it was prepared by the ambassador's cook who made American meals, German said. But following the failed rescue attempt in April and the dispersal of the hostages to far-flung locations around Iran, German said he was forced to eat Iranian dishes consisting mostly of rice, bread and goat cheese. f
While never tortured physically, German recalled a night of terror when his captors were upset and claimed the hostages had been passing notes and communicating with each other.
"It was what they called a security shakedown," German recalled. "They brought in these goons with these Uzis and G3s [guns] and shook the place down. We assumed the classic position against the walls with our blindfolds. They cocked guns in our ears. We experienced total terror."
A few of his captors, German said were "slightly humane."
"If you dealt with them one on one, you were able to communicate," he said. "But as a group, they became much more hostile. They're definitley fanatics, there's no other way to put it."
"Let it be known," he added, "that these were not students. They may have been students at one time, we all were. But two years out of school doesn't make you a student. These were pure and simple terrorists."
Through 14 1/2 months as a hostage, German says he and many of the others never lost sense of time. They kept calendars, he said. Some were also allowed to keep watches.
While not all the mail that was sent from the United States reached them, among the most sustaining items that got through were copies of Sporting News, a venerable sporting newspaper reporting primarily on baseball.
"I can't fail to mention Sporting News," German said. "You would be amazed at the little bits and pieces we picked up in the Sporting New, little subtle things. We used to read cover to cover."
Among the items gleaned from one issue, for instance, was word that fellow hostage Richard Queen had been freed in July.
Asked whether he was aware how hard the hostage families in America were working to free them, German said he had got "bits and pieces" of news of this and was able to "put them together."
"It was helpful to us morale-wise to know this was going on."
Unlike some of his colleagues who were pressured into making public statements favorable to Iran or against the United States, German said he was never forced to say anything.
The Christmas message sent home by the hostages on videotape were, said German, "the toughest thing I've ever done."
"You don't know what to say. You're not forced to say anything," he explained. "You say pretty much what you want. But what can you say?"
Although suspecting that the tapings were part of Iran's propaganda campaign, German said he figured the American people could "see through that."
Invited to send a message home via the American media, German addressed one to his wife: "I love her dearly," he said "and she has been my rock."
Asked what the first thing is he plans to do when returning home, German said, "You mean the second."
German said he expects "cultural shock" on getting back to the United States. Becoming used to freedom again has itself had some disorienting moments. Waking up Wednesday, for instance, to find himself out of captivity and in a hospital room, German said, "I wasn't sure it was real. I looked around for the guards to ask permission to go to the toilet."
Among the free world pressures that German and the other hostages must adjust to is the glare of publicity. For the moment, German said, he and the others were trying to keep a "low profile."
He denied a report by U.S. State Department spokesman Jack Cannon yesterday that the former hostages had voted unanimously not to give interviews to the press. German said he knew of no such vote.
He called the publicity about the hostages "overwhelming, because none of us are used to it." But he added, "it's something we have to face, I'm afraid. It's the least we can do for what the American people have done for us -- their support, theirprayers, all of that."
While a captive, German said he had doubted whether the Carter administration was trying hard to free him and the others. He came to Wednesday night's meeting with Jimmy Carter feeling critical toward the former president.
But from what he has learned and seen since, German said of Carter, "I think the man did as much as he could."
"We wondered whether we had been forgotten," he said. "As it turned out we certainly weren't forgotten."
German also said he had been opposed to the April rescue attempt. "Six months after the event [the capture], what's to be gained? [By then, the captors] were firmly entrenched."
His ordeal has left him feeling especially patriotic. He said he expects to "kiss the ground" when he lands in the United States.
"I've never been prouder of being an American as I am now," he said.