Cheers greeted Alan Cordaro last night when he entered the international terminal at Dulles International Airport on the last leg of a journey that began Monday in Iraqi-occupied Kuwait and ended in his mother's waiting arms.
Twenty-five family members were waiting for the arrival of the 30-year-old electrical engineer who lives in Alexandria and had found himself trapped in a nation half a world away.
Cordaro, who grew up in Loudoun County and is a 1978 graduate of Loudoun County High in Leesburg, had been in Kuwait since October on assignment for Pan American World Airways.
Last night, he said the days since Iraqi forces invaded Aug. 2, smashing the tranquility of what up to then was "a very nice place," had been "a long two weeks."
"I'm happy to be home," he said, "but I want everybody to remember there's still a lot of people there. Americans, Brits, all nationalities. It just won't be over till everybody's out."
The fate of the estimated 2,500 Americans still in Kuwait is uncertain. The State Department has acknowledged that Iraq has defined the Americans trapped in Kuwait and Iraq as "restrictees" and has indicated that they will be used as bargaining chips until the struggle is over.
While waiting for her son to arrive yesterday, Molly Fox Cordaro said Alan had called her from Saudi Arabia Monday and told her he had crossed the border with seven or eight others.
Alan Cordaro would not confirm that last night. He declined to provide details of his escape other than to say he left Kuwait Monday and arrived in Saudi Arabia the same day. He flew from Saudi Arabia to London yesterday and then from London to Dulles on a British Airways flight.
Cordaro said he feared revealing his escape route would jeopardize the chances of other Americans to escape the same way. He referred to their plight time and again.
"Please emphasize about the people back there," he said. "We've got to get them out. Everybody, believe and pray that these people will get out."
A tall, thin man with curly dark hair and glasses, Cordaro looked a bit haggard and said he was "tired, very tired." Relief was evident on his face as he looked around the terminal at his family, and he rarely stopped smiling.
Asked about yesterday's announcement that Iraq has ordered American and British citizens who are stranded in Kuwait to assemble in different hotels, Cordaro said it was nothing new to him.
"We've heard that before," he said, saying he had heard about such threats of round-ups in Kuwait last week. He said he encountered no personal threats.
Still, he said, he was always frightened. "I think I'd have been a fool if I hadn't been."
Before the invasion, Cordaro had planned to return home Aug. 8 for a visit. He called his mother, who lives in Alexandria, July 31 to talk about the trip. Two days later, Iraqi troops entered Kuwait, ending communication between mother and son until he called Monday from Saudi Arabia.
"I would call the State Department and they would say he was alive," Molly Cordaro said. "But I knew he was alive because of the peace God gave me."
Holding a sign that said "Welcome Home Alan," she stood back and watched as her son embraced aunts, uncles and cousins, and kissed his father, Tony Cordaro, of Rockville.
"He looks pretty good," she said. "He looks a little skinny."
Cordaro arrived wearing the same clothes -- a camp shirt, dark chinos and boots -- that he had on when he left Kuwait. He took only a few personal items in a plastic bag and a briefcase out of the country. His mother brought a change of clothes to the airport, but Cordaro had other things on his mind.
"Are we going to go eat someplace?" he asked.