Welcomers at Wiesbaden: 'Part of history'
WIESBADEN, Germany — It was only a 13-hour-plus trip from Tehran, but to the 52 Americans it must have seemed light years as their buses pulled to a stop in front of the Air Force hospital here early Wednesday morning.
They were jeered by revolutionaries as they left Iran Tuesday night, according to press reports. But the 52 Americans stepped off the two Air Force buses into the breaking dawn here as heroes.
Even as the hostages were flying out of Algeria, Americans were on their way to the hospital to celebrate their arrival.
"We drove all night," Marianne Jas, an American exchange student in Trier, Germany, said. She and four friends had quickly made a welcoming banner which they gave to hospital officials.
"I feel like I'm part of history," said Rick Cupp, an exchange student in the group.
Outside the hospital complex, television news crews spent the early-morning hours laying cables, checking equipment and huddling in their vans against the cold.
At first, there were only small groups on the scene. But, as the hostages' arrival drew near, the crowd grew. The mood turned joyous. The Americans, whose number had grown from dozens to hundreds, sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful.,'
Kathy Moser got up early Wednesday and brought her own children and neighbor's children with her. She simply couldn't stay home, she said. "This is history for the kids. If I could have gotten the kids up earlier, we wool l have been here earlier."
The growing crowd of newsmen and spectators kept abreast of the minute-by-minute account of the stages' arrival at, and departure from, the nearby Rhein-Main AB. Patients, some dressed in robes and others wrapped in blankets, began to crowd the balconies.
The Wiesbaden High School band took up a position in front of the hospital, yellow ribbons dangling from their instruments. Boy Scout Troop 311 held the American flag.
The German police blocked off traffic on Konrad Adenauer Strasse in front of the hospital. Germans left their autos and gathered on the sidewalks.
Then, far down the street, the flashing blue light atop a German police car came in view, and two German police helicopters hovered overhead.
Moments later the buses pulled onto the hospital grounds. In the buses the smiling hostages waved back to the crowd. Then, as the 52 got off the bus, everything broke loose.
The crowd cheered and screamed — drowning out the band's rendition of "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" — then surged forward past the restraints. While Air Force police politely motioned the crowd back, a ,German policeman pulled out a pocket camera and began snapping pictures.
Within minutes of their arrival, the hostages were inside.
It will be days, perhaps a week, before any of them leave the hospital to fly to the United States. But, regardless of how long it takes them to get back to America, their longest trip was over.
They had flown to freedom.