A report yesterday on former hostages from TWA Flight 847 incorrectly said that President Reagan, in a speech June 28, called the plane's hijackers and the hostages' captors "murderers and thugs and thieves." Reagan's words were "murderers and thugs and barbarians."
Most of them are home now, taking enormous pleasure in such commonplace rituals as strolling down the driveway to get the day's mail in Newbury Park, Calif., plunking a fishing line into Indian Lake near Indianapolis, returning to the office in Hutchinson, Kan., to find piles of unfinished business on the desk. Normalcy is suddenly something to be savored.
Still, as publicity over the release of 39 American hostages from Trans World Airlines Flight 847 began to subside this week, the ordeal went on in private for many.
Some told of parasites in their stomachs, some of disturbing thoughts in their minds. Kurt Carlson, 38, a Rockford, Ill., businessman beaten brutally during the hijacking, is suffering from fever, nausea, dysentery and nightmares filled with "harsh, bright lights."
Several men said they miss others held hostage with them -- and about five plan a reunion at the wedding of former hostage James Hoskins, 22, of Indianapolis. Members of the Navy diving team aboard the hijacked plane have had recurring dreams about slain diver Robert Dean Stethem of Waldorf, Md.
Some said they see the world very differently after the 17-day ordeal that began June 14. Carlson and Navy diver Stuart Dahl, 31, said they have been born again as Christians. Northrop Corp. engineer Thomas Murry, 58, who said he used to see the world in "black and white," has awakened to the vastness of "the grays."
Several former hostages are in seclusion, exhausted almost as much by their celebrity status as by their captivity. Some said they feel compelled to rethink the experience and watch videotapes of it before returning to routine.
"I don't feel like myself. I find myself thinking of the guys I was with and somehow wishing I could talk to them," said Leo C. Byron, 47, a Pennsylvania state bureaucrat. "I have a let-down feeling sometimes. A feeling of loss. I'm not sitting and brooding, but when I talk to a reporter, there will be a period when I have to stop talking for a while. I get a little choked up. We are told by U.S. officials to expect worse -- nightmares and fits of crying."
"It's hard to believe what's happening. Now that we're home, everything seems so rosy . . . ," said Navy diver Clinton Suggs, 29, of Norfolk, who believed he was to die after Stethem. He said he has had "visions of being with Bob in Greece and when we were at home." He also talked with Stethem's parents -- "they wanted to know exactly what had happened" -- and recounted the killing to them.
Most expressed immeasurable joy at being alive, despite lingering pain: To a man, those interviewed want Stethem's killers "brought to justice," and they want increased public pressure for the release of seven other Americans kidnaped in Lebanon over the last 15 months. Many were unaware of the seven until they, too, became hostages.
But the returning hostages are divided over how to avenge their captivity. Several said they had not expected to find, as free men, that they still empathized with their captors.
"A lot of things that were black and white in the world have all of a sudden become gray to me," Murry said. "As I explained to one of the high-placed men in the Amal militia that guarded the hostages in Beirut , Lebanon used to be to me a small country in the Middle East that disappeared in the dust of Afghanistan, Central America, Cambodia and South Africa. I figured there was a right and a wrong there. An 'our side' and a 'their side.'
"All of a sudden Lebanon becomes the center of my life through a shotgun tour, and I see that nobody's in control," he said. "Nobody has a plan to bring the country together except out of self-interest. Obviously I disagree with the method they used to make their point, but in their view they had a legitimate complaint that Lebanese Shiites were being held by Israel .
"I find I'm reevaluating even the meaning of the term 'hostage,' now that I've been one," Murry said.
Voicing "awesome respect" for President Reagan, Murry said he has nevertheless come to question whether Reagan understands the gray areas in foreign policy. The president's statement that the hijackers and captors were "thugs, murderers and thieves" reached Murry by radio as one of his captors stood 10 feet away with an AK47 rifle. Murry said it was wrong to lump the hijackers and the Amal militia in the same group.
For some, the return to "reality" has been unreal. Several watched the Wimbledon tennis finals Sunday, mindful that they had read in captivity about the earlier rounds. (Their captors provided them with newspapers, magazines, radios and televisions.)
All remain celebrities, pursued by cameras, mobbed by well-wishers, feted as heroes in July 4th parades. From his parents' home in Indianapolis, Hoskins watched a telecast of his Beirut roommate, 33-year-old Robert Peel Jr., riding in the Hutchinson, Kan., parade and promptly telephoned his new friend "to tell him he looked no better on public television than in person."
Hoskins and his fiancee, Kathryn Davis, tried to go out for a quiet meal at a Mexican restaurant last weekend only to be recognized by the proprietors, treated to a free meal and surrounded by fellow diners.
Carlson, his hands still sore from being bound during the hijacking, found himself shaking hands in pain for hours at a local celebration. He is the subject of a seven-day series in The Rockford (Ill.) Register Star, written after a 10-hour interview.
Ralf Traugott, 32, a car dealer from Lunenberg, Mass., said he was misquoted by a Boston newspaper on his return and found himself angrier about that than about his captivity.
"I can handle being hijacked. It's the little things that are making me madder," said Traugott, who was squired around Beirut for several nights by his captors and said he came to sympathize with them in some ways.
For the family of Victor Amburgy, 31, of San Francisco, the celebrity has been awkward. Amburgy and fellow hostage Jack McCarty, his roommate, said publicly upon their homecoming that they are homosexuals. Amburgy's father, Donald, a barber in White Lake, Wis., said that it was not news to him, but "we feel the less said about it, the better . . . . We have to contend with our hometown community. We don't condone it, but we accept it."
Most of the former hostages have spent at least a part of their homecoming at shopping malls, trying to replace clothes stolen by the hijackers.
"I feel a compulsion to buy exactly the same items, the same brands of shoes and shirts from the same stores," Murry said after a shopping expedition. "I was told by the psychiatrists in Wiesbaden the returning hostages' first stop in the West that it's not an unusual reaction, especially if someone has been stripped of so much like I was. You want to duplicate life as it was before this happened."
In their celebrity, the former hostages have become embroiled in a controversy over Allyn Conwell, 39, their elected spokesman in Beirut. Conwell drew criticism from the White House for expressing sympathy with their Amal Shiite captors. Many hostages -- even those who disagreed with him -- have come to his defense. After all, they said, he didn't jeopardize them.
One exception is Peter Hill, a religious-tour leader from Rockford, Ill., who has been pilloried by Conwell's defenders. Some said they felt that Hill's hostility toward the Amal militia put them in danger.
"Some of these yo-yos were so naive they started thinking these people the Amal and Hezbollah factions of Shiites had a point," Hill said. "Well, they didn't have a point. These guys were extremist crazies, and it's just that simple."
For most, however, it is less simple than ever. Several amended previous statements that their "eyes were opened" by the Shiites, saying they meant that they had never seen life in a war zone.
"It's very easy for Americans to sit in an easy chair and drink a beer and not look at the Middle East seriously," Peel said. "I will never forget the horror of war -- families having to live like that, children playing army in the rubble of the streets of Beirut."
Others went farther.
"I am sympathetic to their the Amal cause," said Robert Brown, 42, a marketing representative from Stowe, Mass. "There are certainly more Moslems than Christians and yet the Christians have been in control. In that country, democracy does not prevail."
Carlson, who was held with the Navy diving team, said that while he had no sympathy for the hijackers, he and the others came to trust three younger Beirut guards, who ranged in age from 12 to 18, and took down their addresses. The trio "wanted us to get them visas to come into the United States. I'm sure they wanted to live here. Everybody does, you know."
Many of the former hostages plan to escape to nature to sort out their experience. Hoskins and Davis have gone fishing. Jerome Barczak, 52, a civil engineer, said that the ordeal made him realize that "I've always wanted to take a trip across the country in a camper."
"I really need some time off. I need to sit down and understand what it is I'm supposed to learn from this deal," said Navy diver Dahl, Stethem's supervisor.