Hailed as "nine fallen heroes of peace," the bodies of Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Tex.) and eight other Americans killed in an Ethiopian plane crash were returned to U.S. soil Wednesday.
The nine coffins bearing the bodies of members of a U.S. congressional delegation on a hunger mission to Ethiopia were lifted from a military plane at Andrews Air Force Base by a joint military honor guard.
A crowd of over 300, including members of Congress, family members and aides, watched the solemn ceremony.
As the coffins were loaded into a row of hearses, House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said: "We gather here to honor nine fallen heroes of peace. Each of these talented and able individuals was on a mission of peace, humanity and compassion. Let us dedicate ourselves to those values for which they gave their lives."
The mourners included more than two dozen members of Congress as well as Leland's mother, Alice Rains, who wiped tears from her eyes as she held onto Leland's brother, Gaston.
A private burial service for Leland, 44, was scheduled for today.