Five American men freed by Iraq for medical reasons are back in the United States, where one of them, a Marine, raised a toast and told President Bush to "keep up the good work."
Another hostage was welcomed by his wife, who flew in from Texas despite his urgings to save the air fare. "He told me not to spend any money, but money's not important at a time like this," Cheryl Graham said.Her husband, Lloyd Graham, was among 14 U.S. hostages and 32 British captives freed by Iraq.
Five of the Americans arrived at Kennedy Airport aboard a Royal Jordanian Airlines flight Wednesday night. The nine other Americans stayed in London overnight and were to fly to the United States Thursday.
"I'm elated to be at home," Graham said. "The celebration won't start until all our friends and colleagues can come home, too."
Those released were freed because either they or family members have serious medical conditions.
Graham, 48, of Houston, suffers from arteriosclerosis and has undergone two quadruple bypass surgeries.
Another freed hostage, Jack Frazier, 53, of Santa Ana, Calif., said he was doing construction work in Iraq when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in August.
He said Americans being held in Baghdad could move around "very discreetly" and were allowed to go out daily to buy food. The men had been staying in diplomatic "safe houses" in Iraq arranged by the U.S. Embassy.
Leaving his fellow hostages behind "was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Frazier said.
The hostages' release came after a meeting Sunday between Saddam and members of the Washington-based American-Iraqi Foundation.
In Britain, Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said to murmurs of approval from members of Parliament, he found it "grisly and repulsive" that Iraq had released only sick and old people.
In Baghdad, scores of people were feared trapped when an eight-story office building, damaged in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, collapsed, witnesses said Thursday.
Rescue teams helped by earth-moving equipments were still searching the debris two days after the collapse. Most of the victims were passers-by and a high casualty toll was feared. First reports of the collapse were published Thursday.