As far as Pam Ridener is concerned, flight 4461 has been delayed for eight months. "A long time," she said. That's how long her son Josh has been serving on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Constellation.
"Well, he's been in the Persian gulf," said 8-year-old nephew Jordan. He ditched the cartoon network to follow uncle Josh. "Yeah, I watched CNN," he said.
And 4 year-old Keegan, tightly clutching a photo of his uncle Josh like a framed teddy bear, even if he isn't quite sure whether he's coming or going. "He's leaving," he said to his grandmother. "No, he's coming to us," she replied. "No he's leaving!," insisted Keegan.
Meanwhile, great-grandma had her birthday a few days ago. "This is a great birthday present," said a reporter. "It's one of the best!," she said.
Finally, the moment arrived. And eight months of worrying, and wondering, and praying are all let go in the trembling of a chin, and the embrace of a son. As the hugs multiply, Keegan continues to hold on to his picture, shocked that the man in the photograph is actually here.
And Josh? "We worked our butts off, working 20 hours a day for eight months," he said.
Now he has some time to relax, trading in the adrenaline rush from the launch of an F-14, for the hug of a 4 year-old.