Family, Friends Fearful, Frustrated As They Await
Word On Spy Plane's Crew
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WHIDBEY ISLAND NAS, Wash. (April 3) -- Family
and friends of the 24 American spy plane crew members confined at a
Chinese military base expressed fear and frustration as they awaited
word on when their loved ones would be freed.
About 1,000 yellow ribbons fluttered from
branches and fence posts Wednesday at the base where 14 of the plane's
``The spouses that I spoke to were of course
frightened, they were concerned for the well-being of their loved ones and
they were very, very, angry,'' said Capt. William Marriott, commander of
Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10 at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station,
about 50 miles north of Seattle.
The damaged aircraft was forced
to land Sunday on Hainan island after a collision with a Chinese warplane.
U.S. Embassy officials met Tuesday with the 21 men and three women and
said they were in good health, but there was no word on when they would be
allowed to leave the island.
Friends of 21-year-old Brandon Funk,
a Navy Cryptologic Technician Interpretive 2nd Class, were overcome with
emotion as they met at a popular restaurant in his home town of Show Low,
``There were a couple girls that came in here, friends of
his, and they just started crying at the table about this,'' Gerri
Deublein - owner of the Branding Iron Steak House in the mountain town
about 175 miles northeast of Phoenix - told The Arizona Republic. ``It
frightens all of us to have him so far away in so uncertain a situation.''
``We're all upset and just want him to come home soon,'' said his
mother, Carly Funk told the newspaper.
In Charlotte, N.C.,
neighbors of Robert and Sandy Blocher went out in the rain to tie yellow
ribbons around trees after the couple received word that their son,
Steven, was among the crew.
``I'd like to be a fly on the wall or
at least be there with him to find out exactly how he is feeling right
now, and how he his doing,'' Robert Blocher said.
the crew is being held in ``protective custody'' and that the United
States should apologize for the incident that landed them in China, though
China's foreign minister said Wednesday that China hoped to resolve the
The White House has ruled out any apology.
President Bush warned Tuesday that ties with Beijing could suffer unless
it quickly releases the EP-3E plane.
``We are not at war,
therefore we don't understand why we don't have access to our crew
members,'' said Marriott. ``The prompt and safe return of them is our
absolute number one priority, followed closely behind by getting that
airplane ready to fly and getting it back.''
Amanda De Jesus of
Long Beach, Calif., the mother of Cryptologic Technician Interpretive 1st
Class Josef Edmunds of Davis, Calif., told ABC's ``Good Morning America''
she thinks Bush should apologize.
``I don't think we bear any real
blame, at least from my understanding of the facts. But they've got the
bodies of 24 of the United States' most precious resources,'' De Jesus
said. ``I would say what they want us to say.''
refused to allow the American officials to meet alone with the crew
members and have not allowed them to contact their families in the United
``We'd like to get to say to (the Chinese government),
'Let her go,''' said Benjamin Sonon, brother of Lt. Marcia S. Sonon. ``But
there's really not much we can say.''
Sonon's mother relied on the
support of friends and neighbors in Lenharstville, Pa., about 60 northwest
``I hope she's OK,'' Fern Sonon said. ``She's
probably thinking of us.''
Marcia Sonon had dreamed of joining the
Navy and flying since childhood.
``That was her dream, to fly,''
said Fern Sonon. ``But we didn't expect this. I don't think she expected
Robert Blocher said his son, a 24-year-old Aviation
Electrician's Mate 3rd Class, told him when they last talked that the
assignment on the spy plane was more dangerous than he first thought.
``His biggest fear was being taken hostage,'' Robert Blocher said.
Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class David Cecka, 28, was due
back at Whidbey in early June, said his father, Mike Cecka, town
administrator in Cle Elum, Wash., about 70 miles east of Seattle. Mike
Cecka said he was relieved to hear the crew was safe.
``That takes away the immediate concern of well-being,'' he said. ``From
there it's a matter of working out the process of getting them home.''