Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday in Underhill

The parking lots and picnic tables were crowded this weekend at Moore Park, named for my former brother-in-law in Underhill, Vermont, the kind of quiet, close-knit American town seen mostly these days on Turner Classic Movies but suddenly besieged by media after the capture of its resident, Richard Phillips, by pirates in the Indian Ocean.

For four days, until his dramatic rescue yesterday, Capt. Phillips' family was held hostage too by hordes of reporters in cars and satellite trucks until the State Police moved them off to the town center, where they spent their time, according to one local witness, "milling about with nothing to do but talk on their cell phones or to each other" after trying to get taciturn Vermonters to emote about their grief over the seaman's plight.

Even after Capt. Phillips' release, his wife Andrea stayed out of sight, leaving it to shipping company spokeswoman Allison McColl to read a family statement from a clipboard:

"The Phillips family wants to thank you all for your support and prayers. They have felt the caring and concern extended by the nation to their family. This is truly a very happy Easter for the Phillips family.

"Andrea and Richard have spoken. I think you can all imagine their joy, and what a happy moment that was for them. They’re all just so happy and relieved."

They did get a second-hand version of Mrs. Phillips' reaction. "She was laughing while she was on the phone with him," McColl told reporters. "She was saying his trademark sense of humor was still very much intact, and he's in great spirits. If you guys could have seen her light up when she talked to him, it was really remarkable."

But her lighting up was not on camera in a place where people still try to live their lives in private, even while under the hot eye of a media event.

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