Wearing a bright red button with the word EGBOK on it, Jeanne Murry looked out toward the nearby Santa Monica Mountains and quietly said: "Through this situation particularly, we had to hang on to that philosophy: that everything was going to come out OK."
Just a few hours before she was to be reunited with her husband, freed hostage Thomas Murry, Jeanne Murry had a chance Tuesday to meet one of the KABC Talkradio personalities who came up with the EGBOK slogan that helped her family through the ordeal.
A tired but happy Jeanne Murry said, "Very honestly--it might sound trite, I suppose--we had to have something to hang on to, and this"--pointing to the button--"really did it for us."
Sitting between her daughter, Marianne Robertson, and KABC's Ken Minyard, who with fellow drive-time host Bob Arthur originated the acronym ("Everything's gonna be OK"), Jeanne Murry sat quietly, apologizing for the momentary lack of air conditioning. Minutes before, she and Minyard shared a warm bear hug upon meeting each other for the first time. She thanked him for helping the family weather the hostage crisis. "I'm glad we could help in any way we could," he answered warmly.
"I wouldn't want to go through this ordeal again," Jeanne Murry said, with a shake of her dark hair. "It was really the biggest trauma; you have no idea. But you move forward and you deal with it--with the help of EGBOK."
She said the family has been tuning in "The Ken & Bob Co." for more than eight years, and they were attracted to EGBOK from the start.
"I think it's such a catchy phrase," she noted. "Even if people don't know what you're talking about, explaining it to someone is such a pleasure because then you can really say the words: 'Everything's going to be OK.' I've never felt it was flippant or silly. It's got a very deep meaning and when people really say it to you, it means something."
Minyard said the Murrys got in touch with him just after TWA Flight 847 was hijacked 20 days ago. "Mrs. Murry called me and said, 'If you'll send over some of those EGBOK T-shirts, we'll wear them on the air.' And they did. The first thing we know, she was being interviewed on TV wearing an EGBOK T-shirt. It was rewarding to us that they were getting comfort from our little philosophy."
The catch phrase was a way for the Murrys to keep a grip on the events whirling around them.
For daughter Robertson, who's been with her mother since the crisis began, EGBOK equaled hope. "EGBOK kept us from going into despair," she said, gesturing toward the EGBOK printed on her faded T-shirt. "This time was incredibly heavy--probably the most trying this family ever saw. But by wearing EGBOK buttons and T-shirts and drinking out of EGBOK coffee mugs, it kept things lighter, more manageable. While we were cognizant our situation was awful, disastrous, it kept us hanging on with a sense of humor, of perspective, about the whole ordeal."
Even former hostage Murry--who arrived home early Wednesday morning sporting an EGBOK button on his crumpled sports jacket--looked to EGBOK for some kind of solace in the midst of his captivity. Among the first words the Northrop/Ventura engineer wrote in a letter from Beirut to his family was EGBOK: "As Ken and Bob say, 'EGBOK.' I bet they have never heard that from a Beirut hostage."
But Murry's family knew exactly what he meant. "It was a very connecting thing for Mom and I--he (Murry) knew that it would mean something special to just the two of us," Robertson said, holding her mother's hand. "It really told us all we needed to know."
Minyard and Arthur were "a little surprised" by the intensity of the support the Murrys drew from the "Ken & Bob Co." slogan, but Minyard said the Murrys' embrace of EGBOK did dramatize the way the phrase has taken off.
"As silly as the whole thing might sound, it's really something that touches people deep down inside them," Minyard said in a phone interview before going to meet the Murrys. "Bob and I are getting a kick out of this very palpable demonstration of the idea that reaching out to people really does help. It's not just our own bag now. It's gone big time on us."
Minyard and Arthur came up with the EGBOK phrase the morning after the news of the mass suicide of the followers of the Rev. Jim Jones in Guyana on Nov. 18, 1978. As Minyard explained it: "We were having real trouble taking a light tack on that nightmare. We just couldn't do it.
"So we got on the air and asked folks to call in and tell us something good that had happened to them, to accentuate the positive. We said, 'Let's try to find out what's going right in the world, let's keep in mind that the news doesn't control our lives.' "
Listeners responded enthusiastically. These days, promotional EGBOK paraphernalia is seemingly everywhere: coffee mugs, T-shirts, buttons. Many of the items were on prominent display among the crowd awaiting Murry's homecoming. A lot of people other than the Murrys seem to be finding something healthy in EGBOK.
"We've had nothing nearly as dramatic as the Murrys, but some very ill people have told me that they've kept on the light side with this EGBOK pseudo-philosophy," Minyard said. "And, for a number of reasons, they've started to get better. It's a little weird, but it works for a lot of people."
A lot of the comfort the Murry family extracted from EGBOK was its lighter side--"The Ken & Bob Co." 's knack of getting a smile from the most depressing news.
Like the families of other hostages, the Murrys have had to deal with regiments of media personnel scrutinizing their lives, camping out on their front lawn and tying up their phone lines--all this while anxiously waiting to find out if their husband and father would ever come back to them safely.
Robertson tells a story of a British journalist who interviewed her and wanted to know whether EGBOK was some sort of secret message Murry was shuttling to his family. "I guess he thought it was some sort of code for vital diplomatic information or something. It had us in stitches," she said.
The Murrys even made "EGBOKery" into a kind of secret handshake. All reporters who wanted to speak with the family about Murry had to wear EGBOK buttons, which the family cheerfully supplied. Said Robertson: "If someone was wearing an EGBOK button, we knew they belonged here. If they weren't, we knew they were just a looky-loo."
For Jeanne Murry, the ultimate proof of EGBOK's value was that her husband was indeed coming home. "He may have been away, and I may have been frantic for him to be home, but everything's gonna be OK now--I hope."