Terry A. Anderson came home Tuesday to his first Christmas of freedom after more than 6 1/2 years in captivity and to the cheers of his colleagues at the Associated Press.
"I am not a hero. I am just somebody who got caught," said the 44-year-old chief Middle East correspondent of the AP, who wore a T-shirt proclaiming, "Hello, World."
The brevity of his sentences could not conceal his deep emotion as he returned both to the United States and to the world headquarters of his employer, where for 2,454 days, writers, photographers and editors posted a running count of his captivity.
Anderson received the key to New York City from Mayor David N. Dinkins upon arriving at Kennedy Airport from Wiesbaden, Germany. The longest-held American hostage, who was kidnaped in Beirut on March 16, 1985, was freed by his Shiite Muslim captors last Wednesday.
"Wiesbaden was great. But this is my homecoming," Anderson said after his arrival on American soil. "This is where my people are."
"I'm just flying high. Everything is just so beautiful," he said.
"I don't know how many times you can say it's fantastic. It's the greatest," he added. "You're lucky I can talk right how. I'm just about choked up."
Anderson, who was accompanied on the flight by his 6-year-old daughter, Sulome, and her mother Madeline Bassil, was driven in a police escort to the Associated Press building near the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
After Anderson toured the newsroom on the fourth floor, Bill Ahern, the wire service's vice president and executive editor, glanced at the bulletin board where the calendar of Anderson's captivity had been posted.
"Our job is to cover people in the news who go through this," Ahern said. "So many of the other hostages were released, but they weren't our own. This one is ours. That has a kind of special meaning."