Yellow Ribbons Grace Captive's Hometown : Reaction: News about downed pilot prompts outpouring of concern in New England community.


There was snow on New Hampshire's Mt. Washington early Tuesday morning, and by dawn there were yellow ribbons on lampposts and every municipal building in Berlin, N.H., 20 minutes away.

The ribbons went up as a gesture of support for the family of Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Durant, the Army helicopter pilot who was shot down and taken prisoner Sunday in Mogadishu, Somalia. Word of Durant's capture interrupted a City Council meeting in his hometown of Berlin and prompted an immediate outpouring of concern.

"Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the family," Berlin Mayor Leo Ouellett said, adding that he is a friend of the downed pilot's father, Leon.

The Durant family ties go deep into this close-knit community of 11,700 not far from the Quebec border. Leon Durant is a sergeant in the New Hampshire National Guard, and his wife, Louise, retired recently from the superintendent's office at the Berlin School District. Michael Durant, 32, is a graduate of Berlin High School.

The Durant family said they were uncertain who was holding their son hostage, or what steps would be taken to seek his release. In his only comment on the situation, Leon Durant told the Berlin Reporter on Monday that "there isn't a lot to say, except we know he's alive."

By Tuesday, Leon and Louise Durant had left for Sango, Tenn., where Michael Durant's wife, Lorrie, and 1-year-old son, Joey, live. Speaking on behalf of her uncle and aunt, Nancy Leclerc-Davidson said from Berlin that the family is optimistic that his detainment will be "rather brief."

Leclerc-Davidson said the family was trying to avoid focusing on any possible long-range ramifications of Durant's capture.

"We're thinking we'll see him soon," she said. "I don't think the long term has entered anyone's mind."

In a videotape aired by Cable News Network after his capture, Durant identified himself as a pilot of a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter. Two UH-60A Black Hawks were shot down Sunday in an intense battle between U.N. forces and followers of Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid.

Durant's face appeared cut and bloodied in the videotape. To his cousin, Ken Durant, 28, "he looked extremely scared, terrified. I've known Mike my whole life, and I've never seen him look scared like that."

Family members said fear was not a quality they associated with Michael Durant. Popular and outgoing, Durant was described as an adventurer who enlisted in the Army directly out of high school. As a boy in this woodsy region, he loved to go deer hunting and fishing with his father.

"He's tough, he's very determined--a real stick-to-it-type person," Ken Durant said. "He'll take whatever they dish out."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World