Perhaps our most aggressive use of satellites came shortly after Abscam, on January 25, 1981.  President Ronald Reagan had been inaugurated just five days earlier.  That triggered a sequence of events resulting in the release of 53 Americans who had been held hostage by Iran for 444 days.  This day, the freed hostages were coming home.  

Every American community seemed to have their connection to the crisis and Tampa Bay was no exception.  For us it was Anabeth Voights, who was the sister of Kathryn “Kate” Koob, one of only two women hostages, who had been the U.S. embassy's cultural affairs officer.  In addition to ruining the lawn of Kathryn's Town and Country home by the incessant presence of news trucks (which we later helped replace), we anticipated following her if and when the hostages were released.  

In an apparent slight to President Carter, the Iranian authorities waited until Ronald Reagan took office on January 20th to release the hostages in return for unfreezing their assets in America. The former hostages were flown to West Germany for a medical evaluation and to be reunited with their families.   They were greeted by then former President Carter who President Reagan sent as an emissary.  

After a few days of rest the group was ready for their return to the United States.  WTVT had a dilemma.  The Richard Kelly trial was nearing an end and it wasn’t clear whether I would be available to cover the homecoming scheduled for Tuesday, January 25th. The decision was made to send Deanna Lawrence to D.C. in case the trial wasn’t resolved.  However, on Monday the trail was over, Deanna was on her way, so we decided to double-team the story the following day.

Deanna had developed a close relationship with Anabeth during the ordeal. We felt she would have the best chance of interviews at Andrews Air Force Base when the military transports carrying the freed hostages would arrive.  Duane and I were assigned to cover the ceremony at the White House.

Along with about two hundred other journalists, Duane and I went through security checks and took our position on the White House South Lawn.  The approaching cacophony of sirens and noise signaled the motorcade's approach.  We watched the progress of what had become a festive parade on a small, battery powered TV set that Duane had just purchased.

I don’t remember that much of the actual White House event except that President Reagan graciously included former President Carter in the ceremonies. It was a great day for this country and a happy ending to a national crisis.

In the meantime, Deanna was stationed at Andrews and contributed this memory of her efforts:

"I remember standing in the circle of reporters and photographers from all over the world. They had us roped off..somewhere in neverland ...between the plane where the hostages would appear...and the hostages families waiting for them...Holding messages of love...their hearts ready to burst with joy.

The best spots went to the photographers...mine, Gordon Kilgore...did his best to squeeze a place to poke his lens. Security forces with German Shephard dogs were on the, to protect this American treasure...the hostages coming last. 

All these years later what I remember most is the overwhelming feeling of happiness. As each hostage appeared in the open door of the plane...the cheering was thunderous. One by one they stepped onto American soil...and the families that had feared the worst...reached out their welcoming arms.  We struggled to find our local hostages family in the crowd of families....I think she cried.  But there were so many tears that day that they may have belonged to someone else.

What I do remember is the hectic run to an editing station....meeting Jim and Duane there. We wrote and edited the story...and I ran a brush through my hair and sat down with Jim to "go live" via satellite for the first time. It was mind boggling.  I remember there was some technical problem and we almost didn't get on the air...but Duane, the consummate engineer...saved the day.  

When it was done, we were spent...exhausted from the running, and the deadlines, and the newness of it all. 

But most of all, we were full of the joy of getting to tell a happy 
story. For one precious moment we were all home and safe...and waiting for tomorrow."

--Deanna Lawrence