Marine Sgt. Jimmy Lopez, for 444 days a captive in the American Embassy in Tehran, today found himself a hostage to his own unexpected celebrity.
For 14 months, the residents of this small mining town suffered along with the Lopez family, wondering if Jimmy Lopez would ever come home, and today they gathered by the thousands to see and cheer their new hero.
But Lopez, drained by his ordeal in Iran and the week-long outpouring of sentiment from his countrymen, hardly responded to his friends and neighbors.
Almost a million feet of yellow ribbon surrounded fence posts, shrubs, signs and automobile radio antennas. Trees bloomed yellow under a brilliant blue sky, 10 bands marched proudly through the center of town and makeshift floats rolled triumphantly along next to precise color guards, souped-up cars, a cement mixer and a tow truck, Indian dancers and a sea of school children.
At the head of the parade, in a white limousine with the windows rolled up were a subdued Lopez and his family. He sat in the front seat with his white-gloved hands folded in his lap, rarely acknowledging the wave of applause that rolled along Broad Street, and passing up an opportunity to mount the reviewing stand to greet the crowd.
"He was going to get out of the car, but there were too many people crowding around," said Danny Lopez, 19, his brother. "Jimmy didn't want to get out unless there was a corridor for him, and so he just said, 'Let's go on.'"
Lopez briefly attended a public picnic later today after a private reception for family members. He stayed at the picnic only a few minutes, then returned home.
Since his return to Globe Wednesday night, where he was introduced by Gov. Bruce Babbitt as "Arizona's first citizen and a great American hero," he has avoided the crowds and the crush of reporters who have gathered here as he tries to adjust to his new and sometimes painful life.
Lopez, 22, emerged from the ordeal somewhat larger than life, a cool young Marine who alone had held off the unruly mobs in the consulate building in the embassy compound, hurling tear gas to keep the attackers at bay, jamming the door with coat hangers, barking orders to people twice his age, and ultimately helping five Americans escape the compound to seek secret refuge in the Canadian Embassy, from which they eventually made their final escape to America.
Later, while in captivity, he had scrawled "Viva La Roja, Blanca y Azul," Spanish for "Long Live the Red, White and Blue," on a wall in the embassy compound, a message of defiance that his captors never translated, but which brought Lopez special recognition from President Reagan at White House ceremonies Tuesday.
An old high school classmate, Udon McSpadden, put it best: "In high school, he was just like the rest of us. Now the whole nation is cheering him."
And today the huge billboards said in Spanish, "Long Live the Red, White and Blue and Jimmy Lopez."
His friends remember him as one of them: crazy, funny, outgoing -- and always interested in women.
"He was an ordinary guy who was there when you needed him," said Daniel Andrade, who shared an apartment and some wild nights with Lopez after they were graduated from high school.
"He was an instigator of a lot of things when we were in high school," McSpadden said. "He never got into trouble like a lot of people did, but he was always there for a good time. I was shocked when I heard he had been captured, but I wasn't surprised at all that he had given those guys a hard time."
Lopez played football, where he was a ferocious offensive lineman, ran track and played in the band. He went away to junior college in Mesa, but quit before the end of the first year to join the Marines.
"He was always intrigued with the Marines," Andrade said. "It was the mystique -- always the first, builds good men, all of that good stuff."
He went to Tehran a month before the embassy was overrun on Nov. 4, 1979, and almost from the moment of his captivity, his ordeal became Globe's.
Nestled in the foothills of the Pinal Mountains, about 80 miles east of Phoenix, Globe is a copper mining town where strikes come every three years and the families prepare accordingly. It is about half Anglo and half Mexican American, and a nearby Apache Indian Reservation adds to the racial mix.
It has seen problems in the past, but the people here say the capture of Jimmy Lopez pulled the town together, just as it bound up the nation in unembarrassed patriotism.
"When we found out the hostages had been released, it was like a cloud had lifted over the whole town," said Margaret Faras, one of hundreds of people who waited for three hours to greet Lopez Wednesday night.
Local residents followed every moment of the hostage crisis, coming home to eat their dinners in front of the television sets that brought Tehran into their living rooms as it had brought Pleiku and Saigon there 15 years ago. Kids who once had no interest in government, politics or their country paid uncommon attention to the captivity of their neighbor, Jimmy Lopez.
"We had had a dead cycle," said Manuel Acevedo, the husband of the mayor of nearby Miami. "Kids didn't care if we had the pledge of allegiance in school. Now it's different."
Almost everyone here felt a personal attachment to Lopez. "Either you shopped at the same store as his mother or you knew his father or one of your kids had gone to school with him or one of his brothers and sisters," said Donna Anderson of the Chamber of Commerce.
People tried to comfort the Lopez family as best they could, and tried, too, to comfort themselves.
"I didn't want to let the Lopezes see me depressed, so I'd go up to their house and sort of make a fool of myself," Daniel Andrade said. "But when I was by myself," it was a real nasty feeling that I hope I never have again."
All of that has been washed away, and today's outpouring of people, flags, ribbons and patriotism was Globe's way of trying to return to normal.
"We're all very proud of Jimmy," said Armida Bittner as she stood along the parade route. "Now I really hope that people will let them all alone."
No one here really expects that to happen.