DAMASCUS, Syria — The 39 freed U.S. hostages stood at their news conference Sunday and applauded TWA flight attendant Uli Derickson, who was released earlier.
"I think there is one person of the TWA crew that needs to be singled out in light of the adverse press that I read--Uli Derickson. Please," said hostage Peter W. Hill of Hoffman Estates, Ill.
The New York Times and some other news organizations, in initial reports of the hijacking, implied that Derickson had helped the hijackers single out passengers aboard the TWA jet with "Jewish-sounding names," who were then separated from the rest of the passengers. To the contrary, though, other freed hostages and TWA made clear that she had done her best to convince the hijackers that the names in question were German or Swedish.
Hill asked Allyn B. Conwell of Houston, who has acted as the hostages' spokesman, to comment.
"Well, you began it," he said, "but basically, we all had the opportunity to sit and recount the very, very traumatic circumstances aboard the aircraft, and we certainly wish to stand up and applaud a very special lady named Uli Derickson, who was aboard the plane and who stood between herself and some murderous hijackers that saved many people--certainly injury--and I think we all feel probably saved several people their lives . . . and that's Miss Uli Derickson."
After the applause, Conwell said there were many people whom the hostages planned to thank but added, "That's a special lady, and we'll never forget her."