The Mediterranean cruise ship Achille Lauro had just left Genoa, and as reveling passengers posed for the customary group snapshot, the camera told all. There they were on the sun-drenched deck -- elderly American couples from New York and New Jersey who for years had vacationed together, honeymooners from Europe, toddlers from around the world being cradled by protective grandparents, celebrants of anniversaries and birthdays, recuperating victims of heart attacks and strokes.

And crowded in with the joyful, frozen in place for chilling scrutiny later on: the unsmiling face of one young man known only as Omar.

He was one of four young Arabs in Cabin 82, who from the start had drawn the suspicions of their fellow travelers.

On a cruise ship, where everyone watches each other, the four kept conspicuously to themselves in the ship's expansive dining lounge. Their street clothes clashed with the bikinis and cruise garb of their companions.

One had a passport from Norway, but clearly could not speak Norwegian.

The other three, who looked Arabic to several passengers, carried passports from Argentina and Canada.

A few passengers, including an Israeli couple, voiced concern to the crew.

"I noticed four people who were always together in a very strange way," cruise manager Max Fico was to recall later. "They looked Middle Eastern. Now, looking back, my impression is that these four were very strange."

In retrospect, it all seemed more than strange.

Four members of a splinter Palestinian guerrilla group, one 19 years old and the others in their 20s, try to infiltrate Ashdod, Israel, aboard an aging cruise ship, planning what they later characterized as a terrorist reprisal for the Israeli bombing of Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunis. They smuggle aboard Kalashnikov assault rifles, hand grenades and other explosives, reportedly in vegetable crates, under the eyes of the Genoa port police.

Improbably, they hope to lose themselves among the ship's 750 vacationers, the swimming pool, the movie theater and discotheque.

Then, a waiter stumbles upon them cleaning their weapons in their cabin, and it all goes awry. Floundering and on edge, the young men commandeer the ship, steering it into a 52-hour Mediterranean odyssey of terror and tragedy, and into the consciousness of a chaotic region and watchful world.

For the hijackers, the journey would begin and end in Italy -- a futile circle from the port of Genoa on Oct. 3 to the tarmac of Sigonella Air Base in Sicily a week later -- but by the time it was over, the implications were global.

* In three days, the world was disabused of the invincible image of Middle East terrorists, whose deadly schemes for years have rendered nations as powerful as the United States and the Soviet Union helpless.

After seemingly flawless coordination in attacks on U.S. Marines in Beirut two years ago and the hijacking of a TWA flight in June, the journey of the Achille Lauro revealed four bullying bunglers, not only denounced by the United States and Europe but disowned, publicly at least, by those they might have seen as patrons -- Syria, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, the Arab world.

As the hijackers filed off the ship on Wednesday, their mission in shambles, one muttered to a passenger, "Sorry, we took the wrong ship."

* For the United States, it provided an outlet for mounting frustration over unavenged bombings, murders, hijackings, kidnapings. For once, American intelligence officials, who seemed to have botched so many terrorist episodes, were where they needed to be.

The dramatic scene of American military jets encircling the escaping hijackers' plane in a darkened sky over Sicily last Thursday night, forcing it down at Sigonella, was likened by U.S. officials to the successful Grenada invasion of 1983. President Reagan hailed it on Friday as a warning to terrorists that "you can run but you can't hide."

* But it also was an almost unreproducible script. These terrorists forfeited any possible empathy by committing a dastardly deed -- shooting and dumping overboard a 69-year-old invalid, Leon Klinghoffer, a stroke victim confined to a wheelchair, who was hard of hearing and who spoke with slurred speech.

Unlike earlier terrorist groups, the Achille Lauro Four had no haven to which they could escape. Egyptian officials disarmed them; Greece and Tunisia refused to let them land. The American forces did not need to fire a single shot to force down their commercial airline, and take them into custody.

* What may have looked from the United States like a battle between good and evil forces, where the white hats finally won, was impossibly complicated in other world capitals where the drama unfolded.

The episode placed the United States at odds with Egypt, an ally in the Middle East, whose President Hosni Mubarak, facing pressures of his own, angered the White House by allowing negotiations with the hijackers, releasing them even after confirmation of Klinghoffer's murder and incorrectly assuring American officials on Thursday morning that they had left Egypt.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi was embarrassed in front of domestic opponents critical of his friendly relationship with the PLO. Before learning of Klinghoffer's death, one of Craxi's aides touted the PLO role in negotiating the hijackers' surrender as the "fruition" of Italy's relationship with the group.

Soon afterward, Italians learned not only of the death but of questions of whether Arafat, who denounced the hijacking, may have been involved. By the time the hijackers were taken into custody, the PLO leader, who had chatted volubly with ABC's Ted Koppel during the crisis, had flown to Senegal for what was called a previously scheduled meeting, and could not be reached.

* In the by-now-familiar scenario of terrorism, the world was transformed into a global village, as it was in the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 and 1980, the Marine barracks bombing, the TWA hijacking.

Once again, the nation became intimate with a handful of ordinary and previously anonymous Americans, who, in three days, traveled the familiar and painful road from innocents to hostage families to grieving or celebrating clans.

And throughout the ordeal, Americans watching television in the comfort of their living rooms could eavesdrop on ship-to-shore radios, Beirut radio interviews, even private diplomatic conversations. When U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Nicholas Veliotes learned aboard the Achille Lauro that Klinghoffer had been killed, the entire world heard his emotion-laden voice transmitting the news to his aides ashore.

"In my name I want you to call the foreign minister, tell him what we've learned, tell him the circumstances. We insist that they prosecute those sons of bitches." In Beginning, Simplicity

It had all seemed so simple that morning of Oct. 3, when 753 passengers sailed from Genoa aboard the large pale-blue vessel with its twin beige stacks. Most of them expected to get what they paid for: a not-quite-top-of-the-line cruise for 12 days to the wonders of the classical world, from the pyramids of Egypt to the temples of Greece, with a stop along the way in Israel.

"Your floating resort, the M/s Achille Lauro, will provide bountiful cuisine and lively entertainment to let you relax and unwind," the shipping line's brochure had promised. "Come cruising with us on the Achille Lauro, to the marvelous Mediterranean."

Even then, the simplicity was deceiving. The Mediterranean, which the U.S. Navy likes to call "our lake," was more than usual a troubled sea. On Oct. 1, two days before the cruise started, Israel had bombed the PLO's Tunis headquarters in retaliation for the murder of three Israelis in Cyprus. There were vows of revenge throughout the Arab world and condemnation from the Italians, who maintained friendly ties to the PLO.

Even before the Tunis bombing, Israeli intelligence sources in postcard-perfect ports around the sea had spotted unidentified men photographing Israeli naval vessels. The ever-watchful Israeli military was on the alert for seaborne infiltration.

One of the Palestinian hijackers, reportedly the unsmiling Omar, had cased the Achille Lauro on earlier trips, posing as a Greek shipping agent, even befriending members of the crew as he checked the swimming pool on the Lido Deck, the Belvedere Lounge of the Promenade.

Of course, the instability of the region was no secret to the Belgians and Brazilians, the Americans and Austrians who signed up for the journey. Some worried at the ease with which people boarded and left the ship in Genoa on Thursday and Naples the following day.

"There was no security. None whatsoever in Genoa, even in Naples," Matt Polito of Nutley, N.J., recalled later. "I even said to my wife, 'This is unbelievable.' "

And when a still unidentified fighter jet swooped low over the ship three times as passengers played bridge or sunbathed Saturday morning, some took it as an unfortunate omen.

But how could something so distant and shadowy as Mideast terrorism intrude on a slow-moving cruise liner named for a multimillionaire former mayor of Naples?

So when Marilyn Klinghoffer celebrated her 58th birthday Sunday night with her husband, Leon, it was without any sense of the nightmare that awaited them in that same dining room 24 hours later. Surrounded by the friends with whom she had vacationed in Long Branch, N.J., for decades -- the people whose children had grown up with theirs -- the Klinghoffers perhaps discussed who would disembark the next morning for a field trip to the pyramids, and who would stay on board. In the Middle, Blown Cover

On Monday morning, 634 passengers, many sporting "I Love Achille Lauro" buttons, disembarked at Alexandria for what was billed as the highlight of the trip: a 15-hour bus tour of Cairo and the pyramids that was to return them to Port Said and the ship late that evening. The sun was especially hot, and the terrain dry and dusty, so many older and frailer passengers decided to stay on board ship.

Anette Berglas of Zurich, laid low by a touch of bronchitis, stayed on board, but insisted that her husband take the tour. He had brought her on the cruise after 31 years of marriage to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Daniella Cappellaro of Padua opted for the tour, but left her 5- and 4-year-old children on board with their grandparents. And the Long Branch 11 split up, with the Klinghoffers and four others staying on board.

The sole Israeli couple on the cruise, identified only as the Prachers, got off at Alexandria, reported their suspicions to the crew and returned immediately to Israel. Other couples also voiced concern.

Shortly after the ship pulled out of Alexandria, a waiter found the Palestinians cleaning their weapons, and their cover was blown.

The four grabbed the waiter, according to Italian investigators, then fled their cabin.

Anna Hoerangner, a 40-year-old Austrian woman who walks with a cane, was in the gangway. The hijackers threw her down and ran past her, allowing her to slip into a cabin and under a bed. For 52 hours she would hide, drinking water and eating half an apple a day.

Storming through the ship's kitchen, where they beat and left groaning two cooks, the guerrillas-turned-pirates burst into the dining room with a spray of gunfire that injured two, according to a Swiss passenger. Someone yelled, "Get down on the floor!" and the passengers, who had been at lunch waiting for dessert, dived for cover as best as they could.

Travelers still in their cabins were herded into the dining room and then prodded upstairs, to the salon where six British dancers and a Polish troupe had entertained. Chairs were shoved into a corner and the captivity began, as the hijackers alternately bullied the passengers and kindly served water or food.

Viola Meskin, a friend of the Klinghoffers, recalled with contempt their attempts at political persuasion.

"They looked like kids who were hopped up," she said. "They'd keep coming in with little propaganda like, you know, 'Reagan, no good. Arafat, good.' All this kind of talk."

Agatha Zollinger, a Swiss tourist, said one hijacker handed her 2-year-old grandson bullets to play with. "My grandson was very excited and amused," she said.

On the stage and in the doorways of the salon the hijackers placed barrels that they called gasoline bombs. Always, as the passengers squirmed to get comfortable on chairs or on the floor, there was the threat of a tossed grenade and a conflagration. From time to time the gunmen raked the walls with automatic gunfire.

The four searched for Israelis and, disappointed to discover that the only two had gotten away, segregated the Americans for special treatment. When Marilyn Klinghoffer at one point failed to move fast enough to satisfy her captors, one hit her with the butt of a gun.

On the bridge, hijackers commandeered the wheel and the radio. The ship changed course several times and then headed north, toward Syria. In Washington, Movement

In Washington, deputy national security affairs director Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter began meeting around the clock with Defense, State and CIA officials.

Reports from the eastern Mediterranean were sketchy and conflicting. One Italian radio station reported 12 armed hijackers on board. Their demands, too, were murky. They called for release of 50 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, later added Palestinians held in other countries but never provided a list.

They named only one prisoner, in fact, a man they called the "hero of Operation Nahariya" but whom all Israelis remembered as the perpetrator of one of the most infamous terrorist attacks ever. Samir Sami Kurtar terrorized an Israeli family, with a partner shooting the father and smashing his 5-year-old daughter's head against a rock. After he was arrested, the mother came out of hiding and discovered she had suffocated her 2-year-old while trying to silence the baby's cries.

Publicly, the Reagan administration said little in response to the hijackers' demands. But almost right away, the Pentagon dispatched Delta Force, the military's antiterrorist commando unit in Fort Bragg, N.C. By Wednesday evening -- too late for action -- the force would be ensconced on the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, possibly equipped with small submersible craft and ready to overwhelm the liner.

The USS Scott, a destroyer in port in Haifa, was ordered back to sea. Other U.S. ships, in the region for a NATO exercise called "Display Determination," were alerted. And the pilots aboard the carrier USS Saratoga armed their fighter jets.

In Rome, Maxwell Raab, U.S. ambassador to Italy, was meeting with Craxi to discuss strategy. Other diplomats pressed Syria, Cyprus and Egypt not to give the pirates safe harbor. None, in any case, seemed eager to be drawn into the affair. Cyprus extinguished its harbor lights when the ship was reported to be offshore.

In Port Said, the tired bus travelers reached the dock and waited in the darkness for their ship. By midnight, it still had not arrived.

"At first I thought it cannot be true," Hugh Berglas said. "Then I realized it must be true. I can do absolutely nothing, and that's why I feel a little crazy now. I can do nothing for my wife."

At dawn of Tuesday morning, the shipless travelers of the Achille Lauro reached Cairo Concorde Hotel. Hundreds of them milled through the lobby and lined up to place calls around the world, reassuring relatives of their safety and seeking information.

Hotel physicians checked their blood pressure and filled prescriptions for those who had left their medicine on board. On Sea, An Execution-----

On Tuesday afternoon, Syria refused to allow the ship to dock at Tartus, its destination. The hijackers, who seemed never to sleep, grew desperate, and the mood grew increasingly ugly.

Conversations between the ship and port authorities in Tartus give some inkling of the mood on board as the hijackers demanded, without success, that western ambassadors in Damascus be produced for negotiations.

At 2:32 p.m., the hijackers asked impatiently, "What about the negotiators?" Ten minutes later they asked again and, eight minutes later, once again.

"We cannot wait any longer," a hijacker said. "We will start killing."

Half an hour later, the hijackers still had received no news. "What are the developments, Tartus?" one asked. "We will kill the second. We are losing patience."

On board ship, the six British dancers, two Austrian Jews and 11 of the 12 Americans had been forced to the top deck, where they spent four hours in the hot sun without shade or water. As they were heading for the upper deck, Mildred Hodes recalled, a hijacker came between Klinghoffer and his wife, commanding, "You stay below . She goes."

Hijackers told passengers that they would kill the Americans, one by one, and then move on to the British. They had shuffled the blue U.S. passports, passengers said, and Klinghoffer's had come out on top.

The murder took place on the deck in front of the bridge, but Capt. Gerardo de Rosa was not permitted to watch. "They threatened to shoot him if he moved to look up," Franz Bogen, Austria's ambassador to Egypt, reported later.

Viola Meskin remembered "gunshots and a splash," but according to her husband, "None of us saw the actual murder."

Passengers in the salon heard shots above music that was playing and then saw one of the hijackers return with blood-spattered shoes and trousers, Swiss passenger Rene Sprecher recalled. The hijackers ordered two of the passengers outside to dump the body and wheelchair over the side. This apparently took place at about 3 p.m. Syrian time.

According to Veliotes, Mildred Hodes was next on the death list, but, after she pleaded for her life, they delayed her execution.

At 4:20, when the hijackers attempted to continue the dialogue with the Syrians, they were dismissed with a curt, "That is all."

By 6 p.m., the Americans were returned to the show room of the boat, and Klinghoffers' friends were told he was sick and had been wheeled away. Later, they were told he had been taken to the ship's hospital. The crew gave no hint that he had been killed, the passengers said later.

With a gun pointing to his head, de Rosa sent a message to a Christian radio station in Beirut, assuring the world that no one aboard had been hurt.

"Please, please, please don't try anything," the captain said. For Outside, Unawareness

The world outside the ship remained mostly unaware of the violence. To many Americans back home, the piracy seemed almost lunatic, a kind of black comedy.

In Washington, while posing for pictures with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew in the White House on Tuesday, Reagan was pelted with questions from reporters. He leaned over to explain to Lee that the issue was "the hijacking of this ship -- a most ridiculous thing."

The role of the PLO was from the beginning a mystery, although Arafat denounced the hijacking early on. The suggestion of complicity was particularly embarrassing for Italy, which had maintained close ties with the PLO only to have its Achille Lauro seized by PLO followers. Noting that Italy had condemned Israel's raid on Tunisia, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister David Levy observed acidly, "Terrorism hits even those who think they've reached an understanding with it."

When relations with Italy seemed jeopardized, Arafat ordered Mohammed Abbas, a close associate in Tunis, to Cairo to join Hani el Hassan, his political adviser who was there, to seek an end to the hijacking. Because Abbas heads a pro-Arafat faction of the Palestine Liberation Front that appeared to be behind the shipjacking, Israeli spokesmen insisted that Arafat was involved all along.

Arafat and Abbas instructed the hijackers to return to Port Said and surrender, and Tuesday night the Achille Lauro began its return journey from Syria. Wednesday morning, as the ship hovered outside Egyptian waters and the world still knew nothing of Klinghoffer's death, Egypt's Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid began talking with ambassadors from the United States, West Germany, Italy and Britain to discuss ways to end the crisis.

Abdel-Meguid later would insist that Egypt became involved reluctantly, only at the West's insistence. He also would say that Egypt struck a deal with the hijackers with the acquiescence of western ambassadors.

Egyptian and PLO officials motored out to the Achille Lauro in a small boat. Fifteen miles out to sea off Port Said, the leader of the hijackers joined PLO officials Abbas and Hassan on the skiff for a long, tense day of talks. At day's end, the PLO and Egyptian negotiators boarded the Achille Lauro and made final a deal allowing the hijackers to leave Egypt safely in return for surrendering the ship and hostages.

At that moment, Abdel-Meguid was still meeting with western ambassadors in Cairo. The Italian ambassador had agreed "in principle" to the safe passage deal as long as no one was harmed. State Department officials said the Americans opposed "in very strong terms" any negotiations or concessions.

The five diplomats were still debating when word came that the four terrorists had surrendered. "No final decision had been taken," an Italian source said.

At 5:35 p.m. a large tugboat passed the entrance to the Suez Canal at Port Said. Four men later identified as the pirates waved from the railing outside the bridge. The Achille Lauro docked at Port Said at about 8 p.m.

In Italy, Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti, still unaware of the murder, hailed the resolution as "the fruition" of a foreign policy "that not everyone always understands." He criticized Israel for failing to abandon its "habitual distrust" of the Palestinians.

Craxi prepared for a victory press conference. Death, Devastating Effect

News of Klinghoffer's death finally reached the world -- by whisper, by telephone, by television. Everywhere, it had a devastating effect.

On Wednesday, at 1:30 p.m. Manhattan time, Lisa Klinghoffer, 34, and her 28-year-old sister, Ilsa, were still sipping champagne in their apartment, having heard from the State Department that their parents were safe. Ilsa's fiance Paul Dworin took a telephone call from a local television reporter who said that Leon Klinghoffer might, in fact, be dead. Dworin turned off the television so the daughters would not hear of their father's murder electronically, and then broke the news himself.

Abdel-Meguid said he knew nothing of the killing until someone "whispered" the news to him at a dinner party in Cairo that night. "I was shocked," he said. "It was terrible for us."

Craxi learned the news when Capt. de Rosa told Italian television in a live interview that Klinghoffer had been killed and that he had seen the bloodstained killer. Slightly late for his news conference, Craxi relayed the "mournful news" but said that the piracy had been "resolved happily, at least for the largest part."

The news of Klinghoffer's murder changed the political equation and heightened tensions further between Egypt and the United States. Veliotes, urging Egypt to prosecute the hijackers, declared, "Our position is that these are murderers."

On Thursday morning, Mubarak inexplicably announced that the hijackers had left Egypt, even as the governor of Port Said said they were still in custody there. As U.S. intelligence sources soon were to learn, the hijackers would spend most of the day at an air base near Cairo. Mubarak would admit on Saturday that he had misspoken, saying he was misinformed.

"They left the country, I don't know where they went," Mubarak said at the time. ". . . Maybe Tunisia."

Mubarak also questioned whether Klinghoffer had been killed.

"There is no body and no proof he had been murdered. Maybe the man was in hiding or did not board the ship at all," Mubarak said.

The PLF, in a statement issued from Nicosia, also denied that there had been a murder, but in a rare show of contrition apologized to passengers.

"The aim of the operation was not to hijack the ship or its passengers or any civilian of any nationality," the group said, adding that the hijackers' real aim was a "specified Israeli military target . . . to avenge the martyrs of the Israeli raid on Tunis."

Meanwhile in Washington, White House officials appeared at midday Thursday to be taking Mubarak's word on the departure of the hijackers. A senior official flying with Reagan to Chicago for an afternoon speech on his tax-overhaul proposal said the United States was "disappointed" in Egypt for not prosecuting the hijackers.

Reagan, while in Chicago, expressed a sense of helplessness over dealing with terrorists, and aides privately said they feared a repeat of the TWA hijacking situation, when the perpetrators got away.

"What do you say when you find out that you're not quite sure that a retaliation would hit the people who were responsible for the terror and you might be killing innocent people?" Reagan said. "So you swallow your gorge and you don't do it."

In Port Said, some of the former hostages, including Marilyn Klinghoffer, came off the Achille Lauro to make phone calls to friends and family. Wearing a white flower print dress, looking depleted and with eyes downcast, she walked with two friends into a thicket of television camera crews and reporters. Summoning what little energy she could, she said: "Get away."

Viola Meskin had only one response when told that the hijackers were believed to have gotten away.

"We think it stinks." For U.S., Humiliation Ends

If the crisis seemed publicly to be playing toward another humiliating resolution, Reagan administration officials secretly were a long way from swallowing their gorge.

By midday, officials were persuaded that the hijackers had not left, thanks to intelligence sources in Egypt and electronic eavesdropping of debates among Egyptian factions in the crisis.

Huddling with his national security affairs adviser, Robert C. McFarlane, in a private room of the Sara Lee kitchens in Chicago, where he had traveled to tout his tax-overhaul plan, Reagan approved a dramatic plan to effectively hijack the hijackers.

When a chartered Egyptian Boeing 737 took off into the midnight sky (4:15 p.m. Washington time Thursday), U.S. officials knew the number painted on its tail. Air Force surveillance planes droning overhead tracked its course, and Navy eavesdropping planes listened to every transmission.

South of Crete, seven F14 Tomcat fighters that had been catapulted from the deck of the Saratoga two hours before described large circles in the darkness as they waited for their prey.

When the Egyptian pilot's landing requests were rebuffed by Tunis and Athens and he signaled his intention to return to Egypt, the F14s moved in.

Flashing their lights for the first time, the fighters boxed him in. The Navy E2C Hawkeye control plane told the Egyptian pilot to follow the Tomcats to Sicily and, apparently without argument, he complied.

"They accepted the inevitable," Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger said.

On the ground, Italian and American forces faced off over who was to have custody of the hijackers, the Americans ultimately ceding control after a tense period.

Their military operation accomplished with precision, the F14s circled above the U.S.-Italian base at Sigonella and then returned to the Saratoga.

The pilots from the mission and the rest of the carrier's 5,000 crewmen arrived in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, Friday for a scheduled three-day port leave. Yesterday, Reagan called to thank them and to say the hijackers likely would not have been captured otherwise.

"I just couldn't resist calling to express my appreciation," Reagan said.

Even now, no one knows the pilots' names. In the End, Some Snags

On Friday morning, when America awoke to news of the stunning interception, the crisis seemed cleanly resolved, and a mood of nationalism and jubilation swept the country.

"We Bagged the Bums," crowed the tabloid headline of The New York Daily News in Klinghoffer's home city. "Thank God we've won one," said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.)

But almost as quickly, the storybook-perfect drama began developing snags. The Reagan administration issued an arrest warrant for the PLF's Abbas, who had accompanied the hijackers on the plane, charging that he had directed their mission. But yesterday U.S. officials learned that he had escaped from Italy.

Americans began voicing anxiety about Palestinian retaliation, possibly on U.S. soil, for the interception of the Egyptian plane. And with good reason: an anonymous caller told a western news agency in Beirut that the United States would "pay dearly" if the hijackers were harmed.

Egyptian-U.S. relations soured, at least temporarily, as Mubarak condemned the U.S. action and Egyptians expressed resentment at what they said was ingratitude for their role in ending the crisis.

Despite Mubarak's efforts to disassociate himself from the U.S. interception, the most violent clashes between students and police since Anwar Sadat's final years as president erupted near Cairo University.

U.S.-Italian relations, too, were strained over the disposition of Abbas and his colleague.

Perhaps the most searing image of the day was the arrival of Marilyn Klinghoffer, widow of the slain passenger, at Newark International Airport, where the former hostages were reunited with their families. Dressed in black, her face pallid, the widow of Leon Klinghoffer walked trancelike to meet her two daughters, Lisa and Ilsa.

And as before, Americans felt helpless.

"Maybe it's time to stay home," said Anita Rosenthal, a passenger aboard the Achille Lauro with her husband, Louis. "I tell you, as far as I'm concerned there are crazies walking around and normal people can't cope with them."