Friday, April 17, 2009

Maersk Alabama Crew Goes to Washington

Buried in the inside pages of the Metro section of today's Washington Post, a tale of heroism on the high seas, as the crew of the Maersk Alabama faced down Somali pirates, recalled by Reza Zahid:
ATM Zahid Reza, an able-bodied seaman aboard the Alabama, and William Rios, the ship's boatswain, were among those who stole the show. After sneaking outside to drink a cup of coffee and smoke a cigarette, the two were quickly spotted by cameramen, who rushed outside to hear their stories.

Reza said he lured one of the Somali pirates to the darkened engine room by saying he would turn over the crew members who were hiding. He and the Alabama's chief engineer then attacked the pirate and took him hostage, Reza said.

"I told him: 'Trust me. You are Muslim. I am Muslim,' " Reza said.

The crew's visit to the Gaylord was arranged so quickly that it surprised many of those staying there. Linda Fitzpatrick, who was in town from Atlanta for a digital software conference, said she found out about the celebrity guests only yesterday morning, when her husband called her to say: "Guess what? Your hotel is on TV." She said she was able to snap some photos of the crew even as dozens of reporters charged past her to do the same thing.

"It was very active," she said with a laugh.

The 19 members of the Alabama landed at Andrews Air Force Base just before 1 a.m. yesterday, meeting up with family members before departing for the Gaylord. When they arrived at the hotel after 2 a.m., they were greeted by an open bar and a candlelit buffet.

The Alabama's captain, Richard Phillips, was not there, his trip home delayed while the destroyer he was on responded to another pirate attack on a U.S.-flagged ship, the Liberty Sun. The crew foiled that attack, and Phillips was delivered to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa yesterday. He was expected to return to the United States from there.

About 2 p.m., the Alabama's crew members departed without ceremony. Some evaded reporters as they left; others left with a wave and a smile.

Kevin Mousaw, 53, stood outside the hotel with his 16-year-old son, Joshua, trying to snap a picture of the crew members. A police officer in Canton, N.Y., and in town because his wife was attending a conference, Mousaw said he wanted proof for his colleagues that he crossed paths with the suddenly famous crew.

"It'd be nice to take home. My guys at my station won't believe it."