The U.S. shipping captain who was held hostage for five days by Somali pirates has returned homeand received a hero's welcome in the small Northeastern state of Vermont.
But Captain Richard Phillips says he is not a hero. "I am not the hero. The military is the hero. Thank them. Thank you,"
Phillips was held on a lifeboat by four pirates after offering himself as a hostage to save his crew during an attempted hijacking of his ship on April 8. Three of the pirates were shot and killed as U.S. Navy SEALS special forces rescued Phillips on April 12. The fourth captor was taken into custody.
Shortly after he stepped off a plane in Burlington, Vermont Friday, the captain of the Maersk Alabama was reunited with his wife and children. He expressed gratitude to them, to neighbors in his nearby home town of Underhill, to supporters everywhere, and most of all to the Navy SEALS. "I am just a bit part in this story. I am a small part. I am a seaman, doing the best he can, like all the other seamen out there. The first people I want to thank are the SEALS. They are the superheroes. They are the titans. They are impossible men doing an impossible job, and they did the impossible with me," he said.
Phillips also praised the crew of the Maersk Alabama for their professionalism. "We did it. I told you it was not going to be 'if,' it was going to be 'when,' and we did what we trained to do. We are just seamen--We do the best with what we have got. My crew did an excellent job, and I am so proud of them that they are all home," he said.
After the reunion, Phillips' wife Andrea also thanked neighbors and fellow Americans for their support, and she asked the news media to respect the family's privacy. "This is not one of our typical homecomings. And now that Richard is back, I just ask that you give us some time to be a family again. Hey, Rich, welcome home," she said.
Here in Washington, high-ranking officials from the Defense Department and the U.S. intelligence services met at the State Department Friday to look for new ways to fight piracy in the waters off Somalia.
Meanwhile, the tiny town of Underhill, Vermont is decorated with banners and balloons to welcome home the local hero.