According to Reuters, when the U.S. Cargo ship Maersk Alabama was attacked by Somalian pirates on Wednesday, Captain Phillips told his crew to lock themselves in the cabin and offered his own life in exchange for their safety. The crew having disabled and regained control of the ship, the pirates resorted to holding the captain hostage in the lifeboat, negotiating for his release:
[Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John] Reinhart said the 19-member crew was challenged with the order to leave the captain behind and head for safe harbor in Mombasa, Kenya, where they arrived Saturday night.
"But as mariners, they took the order to preserve the ship and they knew the Navy would preserve their captain, so they did that tough choice and they took the ship away," he said. "When I look at it, I think Richard has exhibited the true spirit of an American."
Captain Philips was in turn liberated by snipers of the United States Navy on Easter Sunday. Three pirates were killed and the fourth captured during the rescue:
Captain Phillips was pulled out of the water — details were not clear on whether he had jumped in — and was transported to the Bainbridge, where sailors delivered him a note from his wife, Andrea.News of Phillips' rescue is of particular relief to his wife, Andrea, and members of St. Thomas Church in Underhill, Vermont:
“Your family is saving a chocolate Easter egg for you,” she wrote, according to Vice Admiral Gortney. “Unless your son eats it first.”
According to John Reinhart, the Maersk Line president and chief executive, Mr. Phillips told him by telephone: “I’m just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home.” President Obama, making his first comments on the situation, praised Mr. Phillips’s “selfless concern for his crew,” who had been freed when the captain let pirates take him off his cargo ship. “His courage is a model for all Americans,” Mr. Obama said.
Drawing a parallel between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Phillips' predicament, the church pastor told about 170 congregants that just as Christ triumphed over evil after being crucified, Phillips was attempting to triumph over the evil of his captors.
"Evil and death and sin do not have the final say," Danielson said. "That is the essential message of Easter. Love and life, goodness and life, they always are the true realities. The world of terror and war and greed, the world of pirates and criminals large and small who prey on individuals, whole nations and regions of the world, they are the ones on the wrong side of history."
- Daring rescue of ship's captain leaves Vermont parish overjoyed, by Chaz Muth. Catholic News Service. April 13, 2009.