John Limbert appeared in the window of special flight 444 and smiled at the army of motorcycle police, the 27 limousines and the official greeters who were lined up on the apron at LaGuardia Airport as if the pope had just arrived.
For a man who had spent nine of the last 14 months in solitary confinement in Iran,he said softly, there's no such thing as too many parades.
"It's so nice just being free to be among people who like you," he said. "For all those months, if I saw anybody at all, it was somebody who didn't like me."
Limbert, 37, a State Department political officer, his wife and two children were among a planeload of former hostages and their families who accepted New York City's invitation to be honored at a tickertape parade today down Broadway.
Some officials had suggested that, after an exhausting week of travel and homecoming celebrations, this would be too much for the weary returnees.
This clearly it wasn't, at least for the 17 former hostages on the special champagne flight.
Limbert and his wife beamed as their two children were taken forward to ride in the cockpit with the pilot of the New York Air jetliner, christened the "Homecoming" and numbered after the days the hostages were held.
On every seat were a yellow ribbon and an American flag. Behind the Limberts, outspoken exhostage Malcolm Kalp, who was beaten in captivity for his repeated escape attempts, chatted a blue streak with anybody who stopped by.
Other former hostages sat quietly, declining to talk to reporters, just hold hands with a wife or girlfriend.
Army Warrant Officer Joseph Hall, 31, thanked a reporter for a gift -- a lapel button -- but said, "I'm not going to wear this because I don't really feel that way." The button said "Victim of the Press."
Some of the returning hostages, however, have enjoyed about all the homecoming celebration they can stand.
A number of them have taken refuge in their homes, and several have fallen ill, including two who are hospitalzed.
Meanwhile, details continue to emerge about the hostages' 14 months in captivity.
Armed with crude homemade weapons, about a half dozen of the Marine hostages had planned a do-or-die break for freedom on Feb. 12, if they had not been released, according to Marine Sgt. John D. McKeel Jr., of Balch Springs, Tex.
Asked if the hostages expected the escape attempt to work, McKeel said, "No."
The February deadline was set to give the newly sworn president a chance to secure their release by less desperate means, McKeel said.
The weapons included detergent mixed with kerosene, and razor blades and pins the hostages had collected.
"When they [the Iranian guards] weren't looking, we did whatever we could and we hid them," he said.
The Marines hoped to reach the Greek border, McKeel said at one point. But later he conceded that it would have been impossible.
"I think I could have gotten out of my area of confinement. I don't think I could have gotten out of the country of Iran. I would have been shoeless, moneyless and unable to speak the local language," he said.
Marine Sgt. Steven Kirtley, home in Little Rock, revealed that his most frightening experience during captivity was not the threat to his life but his roommate's attempted suicide.
"I'll never forget that, and I'll never forgive him for it, either," Kirtley said. He declined to indentify the roommate.
A suicide attempt by an unidentified hostage also was reported by former hostage Moorhead Kennedy earlier this week.
At least one of the mock-firing-squad incidents, reported by several hostages, was apparently caused by a hostage's suicide attempt. What seemed to the hostages at the time to be an act of pure terrorism was, in Kennedy's interpretation, an attempt by the Iranians to search out and remove any possible instruments of suicide. While the guards held the hostages lined up against a wall, other Iranians took away their small remaining collection of possessions.
"It's a dream come true," former hostage Jerry Polkin said as he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport to the cheers of well-wishers. One woman in the crowd wore a yellow T-shirt bearing the message "Hostages do it better blindfolded!"
Plotkin, an unemployed civilian when he was taken hostage, tried to dodge some 60 reporters waiting at the airport. He grabbed his wife, Deborah, and started running along the concourse.
But a reporter pressed him about a newspaper article reporting that he was under investigation for possible drug trafficking. Plotkin responded, "It's irresponsible."
When the question was repeated, Plotkin said sharply, "It's beneath your dignity to ask."
He turned to one of the reporters and asked, "Are you an Iranian?"
He then shoved a network camera crew out of his way and ran with his wife to a waiting limousine.
But for the New York bound-contingent today, everything was coming up bubbles. Limbert expressed the sentiments of several on board Flight 444 when he said, "This attention isflattering, it's nice. And after all the kindness and concern they've given us, the least we can do is let them look at us."
Limbert managed to keep his sanity through his long period of solitary confinement, he said, by imagining trips he might take and by delivering imaginary lectures to an imaginary class on favorite topics, such as history. A former teacher in Iran with a PH.D. in Middle East studies from Harvard, Limbert speaks Farsi fluently.
He engaged in "endless" political discussions with his captors, he said, "although they never got us anywhere."
He was nevr physically abused, and he said his student captors were carrying out a religious belief that required them to treat him humanely.
They expressed subtle disapproval of the many others [Iranian guards] who didn't," he said, referring to the reported instances of beatings and other physical abuses. "They knew this was destroying their own case."