ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. - A rainy morning outside thenation's capital couldn't dampen the spirits of the crew of theMaersk Alabama, who returned to the U.S. a week after their ordealoff the coast of Somalia.
After they disembarked the charter flight from Kenya earlyThursday, one crewman, carrying a child toward the terminal,shouted, "I'm happy to see my family."
Recent pirate attacks on U.S. vessels
Another exclaimed, "God bless America."
The crewmen were greeted at Andrews Air Force Base around 1 a.m.EDT by several dozen family members who crowded onto the wet tarmacnear the arriving plane, waving small flags in the unseasonablycool air. A bevy of reporters and cameras captured the scene, whichincluded a banner adorned with yellow ribbons reading "WelcomeHome Maersk Alabama" that shipping company employees erected nearthe runway.
The crowd erupted in cheers and whistles and applause as thecrewman, carrying bags and belongings, climbed down a ramp from theplane to hugs and kisses from family members.
Second mate Ken Quinn told ABC's "Good Morning America" thatthe hero's welcome was unexpected. "I was just a worker doing myjob," he said. "If you're a movie star or something you expectthat stuff every day, but just Joe Blow on the street, it doesn'thappen to us."
Missing was the Alabama's skipper, who arrived in Mombasa,Kenya, on Thursday aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer that had savedhim.
The crewmen did not stop to talk with reporters and quicklyentered the terminal with their families, where a reception areawas set aside for their privacy.
The crew was bused to the Gaylord National Resort and ConventionCenter about 10 miles away, where they were spent the night.
One week ago, pirates took over the Alabama briefly before Capt.
Richard Phillips surrendered himself in exchange for the safety ofhis 19-member crew. Phillips was freed Sunday after five days ofbeing held hostage in a lifeboat when U.S. Navy SEAL snipers on thedestroyer USS Bainbridge killed three of his captors.
The Alabama crew had scuffled with the pirates, wounding one ofthem with an ice pick, in taking back control of their ship. Thebandits fled the ship with Phillips as their captive, holding himin the lifeboat in a high-stakes standoff until the SEALsharpshooters took action.
Quinn said Thursday that he'd have second thoughts about sailingagain through pirate-infested waters. "It would be good to bearmed ... but if we start shooting at them they might start killingmore seamen," he said.
The Bainbridge was diverted Tuesday to chase pirates attacking asecond U.S. cargo ship, thereby delaying Phillips' homecoming. Thecargo ship, the Liberty Sun, escaped after sustaining damage fromautomatic weapons fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
Another chartered plane was waiting at the Mombasa airport forPhillips, a Kenyan airport official said.
Phillips' wife, Andrea, and two children were still home in
Vermont and did not know when or where they would meet him, saidher mother, Catherine Coggio.
"We're just so thankful that things have turned out the waythey have," Coggio told The Associated Press by phone from herhome in Richmond, Vt.