- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

BURLINGTON, VT. (AP) - Shipping captain Richard Phillips is back in his home state, a week and a half after being taken hostage by pirates. The plane carrying Phillips, who was rescued by Navy SEAL snipers, landed in Burlington late Friday afternoon. His wife, children and others went on board the corporate jet to greet him.

Phillips waved to a small, cheering crowd and hugged his daughter as he walked inside a building for a private reunion.

After the reunion, Phillips was expected to make a brief statement before being taken to his home in nearby Underhill.

The captain was freed from his ordeal with Somali pirates on Easter Sunday. He was to be feted at home with his favorite beer, a chicken pot pie made by a friend and brownies made by his mother-in-law.

There was no immediate plan for a parade or public celebration, owing to the family’s status as somewhat reluctant celebrities.



“We’re respecting the family’s wishes and waiting to see what they’d like to do,” said Kari Papelbon, the town’s zoning administrator.

But all around town, the yellow ribbons that came to symbolize Underhill’s hope during the five days of Phillips’ captivity fluttered in a spring breeze, with lots of late additions as his arrival drew near.

There was a “Welcome Home Captain” sign in front of the Stitch In Time yarn shop, a “Welcome Home Captain Phillips” sign in front of Browns River Middle School and a “Welcome Home Captain Phillips” tar paper sign affixed to a red barn across the street from the family’s home.

Just as telling were a pair of posterboard signs on the fence in front of Phillips’ home.

“Thank You for Your Prayers,” said one.

“Please Give Us Some Time as a Family,” said another, a polite message to members of the media and anyone else hoping to get close.

Police also had kept people away from the airport. Still, two women inspired by the bravery of Phillips, who gave himself to the pirates as a hostage to save his Maersk Alabama crew, sat in the airport’s parking lot with a sign to welcome him home: “You’re a good man, Captain Phillips,” it read.

“We’re so, so proud of him,” said Lynn Coeby, of Ripton, alongside her mother, Eleanor Coeby. “We think that he has such character and morals and ethics to potentially put his life at risk for his crew, and we wanted to be here to say we think he’s a good man.”

Other crew members marked homecomings this week, as well. On Sunday, just days after returning to his home in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, William Rios will be in the pews at Second St. John Baptist Church.

The Rev. Robert Jones said that he has spoken to Rios since his return and that he agreed to speak during the morning service.

Jones also said Rios told him about his ordeal in a telephone conversation.

“He was very afraid,” Jones said. “He said, ‘I was afraid because I didn’t know what was going to happen.’ He’s thanking God, and we’re thanking God.”

___

Associated Press writer Marcus Franklin in New York contributed to this report.

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