Captain Richard Phillips is safely at home in Underhill. He arrived at the Burlington International Airport, Friday afternoon, after spending five days as a hostage to Somali pirates.
A crowd started gathering at the airport early in the day. There were dozens of media members juggling for camera positions, and ordinary people anxious for a glimpse of Captain Richard Phillips. Sue Owen and her mother, Eleanor, held a sign that said, "You're a good man Captain Phillips."
"We're so proud to be a fellow Vermonter of a man of such great character," said Sue. "To do what he did to put his life potentially at risk for his crew - that just shows what a great man he is, which I why I wrote the sign that I did."
Anticipation built as 4:30 p.m. - Phillip's scheduled arrival time - drew near. Then finally, touchdown. Captain Phillips was back on American soil for the first time since being taken hostage by Somali pirates April 8th.
For Phillips' daughter, Mariah, the waiting became too much and she burst on the plane. Her brother, Dan, and mother, Andrea, quickly followed. Just a few moments later the family emerged from the plane and walked across the tarmac. Mariah embraced her dad and put her head on his shoulder as they walked.
"This is truly one of the happiest moments of our life having Richard home," Andrea Phillips said during a brief statement. "I'm extremely proud of my husband, Richard, for his selfless act of bravery."
Captain Phillips has become America's reluctant hero. During his statement he repeatedly thanked the entire military, especially the Navy SEALS who rescued him, Sunday.
"I am just a bit part in this story," he said. "I'm a small part. I'm 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're the super heros, they're the titans, they're the impossible men doing an impossible job, and they did the impossible with me."
Meanwhile, in Essex, Jericho, and Underhill, residents were busy putting the final touches on their welcome home banners. More than a dozen signs, some surrounded by American flags, dotted the route between the airport and the Phillips' home in Underhill.
"Oh it's awesome!" said Sue Owens while hanging her welcome home banner. "He's probably so overwhelmed that he probably doesn't know what to do but it's exciting for us in the town."
Before leaving the airport, Phillips expressed his gratitude for the crew he is credited with saving.
"We did it," he said. "I told you it wasn't going to be 'if', it's going to be 'when' and we did what we trained to do. We're just seamen we do the best with what we got and my crew did an excellent job and I'm so proud of them that they're all home, and they are with their loved ones."
A police escort traveled from Burlington to Underhill with the Phillips family. A small crowd of well wishers gathered to greet them outside the home. Phillips waved to the crowd before disappearing inside. Phillips' mother-in-law spent the day making homemade brownies, and his friends planned to bring over chicken pot pie and his favorite beer.
It is still unclear if there will be a public welcome ceremony for Phillips. The family has asked for time alone and the community is content to give them that space.
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