ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (AP) - The saga of the American
merchant seamen who clashed with Somali pirates on the high seas
off Africa ended early Thursday with a big "welcome home" banner
and the warm embrace of families.
A charter flight from Kenya brought the crew of the Maersk
Alabama to Andrews Air Force Base, where they had a private reunion
with their loved ones.
Missing was the Alabama's skipper, who was still aboard the U.S.
Navy destroyer that had saved him and which still was chasing
pirates off the east coast of Africa.
The crewmen were greeted at Andrews about 1 a.m. EDT by several
dozen family members who crowded onto the wet tarmac near the
arriving plane, waving small flags in the unseasonably cool air. A
bevy of reporters and cameras captured the scene, which included a
banner adorned with yellow ribbons reading "Welcome Home Maersk
Alabama" that shipping company employees erected near the runway.
The crowd erupted in cheers and whistles and applause as the
crewman, carrying bags and belongings, climbed down a ramp from the
plane to hugs and kisses from family members.
One crewman, carrying a child toward the terminal, shouted,
"I'm happy to see my family."
Another exclaimed: "God bless America."