- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

WEST HARTFORD, CONN. (AP) - When ATM “Zahid” Reza left in late January on his latest voyage aboard a cargo ship, he told a friend he knew there was a risk of pirates but thought the problem was over-hyped.

On Sunday, days after escaping a pirate hijacking off the coast of Somalia, the 41-year-old Merchant Marine called his wife and told her he was thinking of quitting because of the frightening incident. Reza has said he was the first to see the pirates board the Maersk Alabama with hooks and ropes, firing into the air.

“Are you going to give up being a Merchant Marine?” Elizabeth Reza asked her husband, as she stood in her back driveway in West Hartford with several reporters listening to her end of the conversation. The Rezas’ 6-year-old son, Isa, crawled in and out of the family’s car, where he and his mother had been reading books to escape the constant barrage of telephone calls from reporters.

“He’s thinking about giving it up,” she said, repeating her husband’s answer.

“Because of this incident,” she later added.

Reza called his wife from the Alabama, which reached Kenya on Saturday. He’s one of 19 American sailors who made it to safety after Capt. Richard Phillips told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin while he surrendered himself to safeguard the men.

Reza, who’s from Bangladesh, began working as a Merchant Marine in 1989. Over the years, he’s logged about 15 years on the high seas.

His call home on Sunday came shortly after Phillips was freed, unharmed. Elizabeth Reza said her husband learned of the news from an all-hands announcement aboard the ship.

“He’s terribly relieved, so relieved. He was very tense and upset and anxious this morning, and now he’s so glad,” said Elizabeth Reza, who still doesn’t know when her husband is coming home.

The Rezas moved to Connecticut from western Massachusetts in October 2006. They live in the top apartment of a neatly kept, gray clapboard home, which sits on a quiet, tree-lined street.

Jonathan Daigle, a downstairs neighbor and friend, said he and his wife often baby-sit Isa and had agreed to take him to school on Wednesdays while ATM “Zahid” Reza was at sea. Reza, whose wife said his birth name had multiple parts formally shortened to ATM, originally was expected to return home from this latest voyage in late May.

Daigle said he spoke with Reza shortly before his trip about the problem of pirates off the coast of Africa. Reza told him that he was well aware of the problem but took it in stride.

“He told me that you knew that it was a possibility but it was just part of the job,” Daigle said.

When Reza’s ship was captured, Daigle said he was shocked.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” he said. “I knew that he was in that part of the world but I just didn’t know that he’d have any problems with pirates.”

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