WASHINGTON – Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington D.C. hosted a historic homecoming Thursday morning at 2:42 a.m. Even three hours before, by midnight, the base was abuzz with chatty reporters, video cameras, and flashing lights lined up on the Air Force tarmac awaiting the arrival of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was escorting the three freed Americans who had been held captive by North Korea: Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song.
The military base tarmac acted as a political red carpet of sorts, as the momentous occasion officially began when Vice President Mike Pence arrived by helicopter.
Shortly thereafter, reporters heard the unmistakable noise of helicopter blades in the distance. The second aircraft, carrying President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, landed beside a billboard-sized American flag hoisted high in the air by the erect ladders of two cherry red fire trucks: the party had officially started.
Within a half hour, Pompeo and the trio of released Americans touched down on U.S. soil. Their glossy white and baby-blue Boeing 757 jumbo jet with “United States of America” perfectly etched along its fuselage slowly rolled up and parked in front of the waving flag.
After an initial private greeting onboard from Trump and Melania, the former detainees emerged atop the plane’s red staircase and were greeted with shouts of praise and applause. The men joyously raised their arms and waved peace signs above their heads as they absorbed their first breaths of fresh air on home turf.
Trump then escorted the men to greet the massive contingent of reporters, photographers, audio technicians, and cameramen, some of whom had been camped out at least four hours to be in position for this very moment. One reporter asked how the returnees felt about being home. “It’s like a dream we are very, very happy,” one of the men said.
The president began his statement by thanking Korean dictator Kim Jong-un for freeing the Americans. Trump remarked that while this is “part” of one of his proudest achievements, “the true honor” will be eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.
His remarks were not without a couple jabs and jokes. Acknowledging the early morning hour, for example, Trump thanked the press and jokingly remarked, “I think you probably broke the all time in history television rating for three o’clock in the morning.”
As the seven minute Q&A came to a close, one reporter asked Trump if he had plans to visit North Korea. To which Trump possibly foreshadowed by answering: “It could happen.”
About six hours later, Trump announced via Twitter that he planned to meet Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore.
The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2018
It’s almost hard to believe that just months prior, relations between the two world leaders were tense, with both exchanging insults such as Trump’s “rocketman” moniker for Kim. Although, considering the soundtrack playing at the White House when the first couple arrived back from Andrews after 4 a.m., it seems that not all Washingtonians have forgotten the nickname so quickly.
A reporter for Yahoo News, referring to a tune first made famous by Elton John in 1972, noted, “Someone is playing “Rocket Man” on the White House lawn.”
Someone is playing “Rocket Man” on the White House lawn.
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) May 10, 2018