8 Americans From Hijacked Cruise Ship Return to U.S. With AM-Ship Hijack
NEW YORK (AP) _ Eight Americans who left an Italian cruise ship shortly before it was hijacked arrived Thursday at Kennedy International Airport saying they were devastated to learn of the murder of one of their fellow passengers.
″We’re all very grateful to be back in the United States,″ said Irving Goodman of Oceanside, spokesman for the group.
″We survived a horrifying experience. We just found out last night of the murder. We Americans were all just destroyed.″
He was referring to the slaying of 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer, of New York City, a stroke victim who authorities said was murdered by Palestine Liberation Front terrorists who then threw his body overboard.
The eight returning voyagers had left the ship while it was in the port of Alexandria, Egypt, to make a day tour of that country when the vessel was hijacked Monday. The eight were to rejoin the ship in Port Said.
When the group went to Port Said, Goodman said, they at first were told the Achille Lauro was late because of heavy traffic in the Suez Canal. Then they learned of the hijacking.
Goodman said nine busloads of passengers who made the day trip were waiting at the pier and that they became afraid that the hijackers might strike at them, too.
″It was a scary experience,″ he said. ″Maybe they knew we were all waiting on the dock.″
Referring to Klinghoffer, he said, ″I have a sick feeling in my stomach that an American on a holiday vacation, a cripple, was murdered. I feel that as Americans our security is now in jeopardy whenever we leave the country.″
Others arriving Thursday were Goodman’s wife, Arlene; Pearl and Bob Altschuld of Tamarac, Fla.; Alan and Mae Knee of Huntington Station; and Mr. and Mrs. Harold Busch of Brooklyn.
All eight said they turned down an opportunity to go back on ship to finish the cruise. Goodman said, ″for reasons of conscience, we couldn’t swallow what had happened and go back on the cruise.″