The saga of the American merchant seamen who clashed with Somali pirates on the high seas off Africa ended early Thursday with a big "welcome home" banner and the warm embrace of families.
A charter flight from Kenya brought the crew of the Maersk Alabama to Andrews Air Force Base, where they had a private reunion with their loved ones.
Missing was the Alabama's skipper, who was still aboard the US Navy destroyer that had saved him and which still was chasing pirates off the east coast of Africa.
The crewmen were greeted at Andrews about 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) by several dozen family members who crowded onto the wet tarmac near the arriving plane, waving small flags in the unseasonably cool air. A bevy of reporters and cameras captured the scene, which included a banner adorned with yellow ribbons reading "Welcome Home Maersk Alabama" that shipping company employees erected near the runway.