The air was filled with sweet anticipation as Jill Carroll's family watched the TV images of Lufthansa flight 422 from Germany touching down at Logan Airport in Boston Sunday.
On a table in their apartment, twin sister Katie set up a laptop computer showing rotating pictures of Jill's cat, Squeaky. Jill had rescued the stray while living and working as a journalist in Jordan in 2002.
The TV set was tuned to Fox News, then to local news channels. News helicopters hovered over the airport, their cameras tracking the white 747 and then Jill's limo as it left the airport.
As Jill and her Monitor colleagues emerged from the airport tunnel under Boston Harbor, Jill called Katie's cellphone. She spoke first to Katie, then to each parent. Her mother was the last to speak to her: "Jillyjuicey!" she said in delight, using a childhood nickname.
"I-love-yous" were exchanged before hanging up. Jill teetered on the verge of emotional overload.
Jim Carroll had the video camera running when an unmarked van pulled up. At first, the Carroll family wasn't sure if it was Jill or not.
They crowded around an open window and yelled another of Jill's nicknames, "Zippy," and waved wildly.
Seconds later, she came through the door and the family, coming down the hallway, met her in a single embrace.
Jill wept, and said, "I'm sorry."
Between the hugs and tears and tender touches, Jill began to share snippets of her ordeal. To ward off boredom while in captivity in Iraq, she sang to herself. "I sang, "way out West where the bad men are...."
Everyone laughed. "They didn't know what I was saying," she giggled.
Even grimmer topics evoked relief. Jill said her Muslim kidnappers assumed that all American journalists were Jewish. To persuade them that she was Christian, she recited the Lord's Prayer and shared Christian stories from the Bible. She thanked her mom for her Roman Catholic upbringing. Even after her captors were persuaded that she was Christian, Jill said, they kept trying to convert her.
Jill said she talked quite a bit with the kidnappers. "Well, at least your Arabic will have improved," Mary Beth, her mom, remarked.
Mary Beth asked if Jill could exercise in captivity. "I walked a lot" around the room, which was eight paces long, Jill told her family, and did squats to keep in shape.