Couple Returns As Neighbors Cheer
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) _ Mildred and Frank Hodes, passengers aboard the hijacked Italian cruise ship, left a week of terror behind them when they returned home Saturday amid the cheers of well-wishers who had wrapped a bright yellow ribbon around their house.
″We love you, Millie,″ neighbors shouted as Mrs. Hodes, who was held captive for two days by Palestinian gunmen aboard the Achille Lauro, cut the ribbon. Frank Hodes had left the vessel just before the hijacking to go on an overland sightseeing trip.
The couple and 13 other Americans arrived at Newark International Airport earlier Saturday aboard an Air Force plane that brought them from Cairo, Egypt.
Frank and Mildred Hodes entered their gray shingle ranch-style home without stopping to speak to the about 100 reporters or well-wishers, but their daughter, Carol, emerged to make a brief statement.
″It’s just been a long long day,″ said Ms. Hodes. ″They came out of it amazingly well. She’s very happy to be home. We appreciate your warm welcome. Everything is great.″
Asked about the family reunion at the airport, she said: ″It was just a lot of hugging and kissing. Then we just sat down to talk.″
Neighbors said they have been glued to their television sets since the Achille Lauro was commandeered by Palestinian gunmen on Monday.
″People have been in touch and contributed money for the welcoming home,″ said neighbor Joe Gurrera.
He said the Hodes’ are part of a group of 65 families who moved into a development here 29 years ago. About two dozen of the original owners are still left and many of them are close friends, he said.
Two other ex-hostages aboard the Hodes’ flight, Stanley Kukacki and his wife, Sophia, were greeted by 40 to 50 relatives when they returned to their Philadelphia home about 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Kubacki’s, both 70, were also welcomed by yellow ribbons tied around trees, flags flying outside their home, and news reporters waiting for interviews.
Kubacki, a Common Pleas Court judge, told reporters he was proud of his fellow American hostages.
″Of all the Americans, not one was under 65 years of age, and many were over 70,″ Kukbacki said. ″But not one begged for mercy or pleaded for their life. I was so proud that we did that.″
The judge said he did not see the murder of wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer, but believes he had heard it.
″I heard two shots and kind of a double splash in the water. I knew he was left behind,″ said Kubacki. ″I was very fearful, and I concluded then, that he had been murdered.″