Captain Richard Phillips: our hero, our friend

DV Elementary students interview sailor

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  • Photos provided Captain Richard Phillips responds to a question posed by DVE-News/TV Reporter Ryan Shearer (second from right) as fellow DVE-News/TV reporters (from left) Mikayla Krisanda, Finnegan McCormack, Daniel Zhivkovich, Tawhid Jahangir, Michelle Andia, and Laura Marquez listen intently.

  • Captain Richard Phillips gives a heartfelt response to one of DVE-News/TV Reporter Tawhid Jahangir’s carefully thought-out questions.

  • Captain and Mrs. Richard Phillips joined DVE-News/TV reporters at the popular historic Pump Station Restaurant for a deliciously appropriate fresh fish lunch together after their interview and visit in the State Museum in Albany.

  • DVE-News/TV reporters Finnegan McCormack and Daniel Zhivkovich refer to the book written by Captain Richard Phillips as reporters Mikayla Krisanda and Laura Marquez speak with an Albany news reporter in the background.

By Michelle Andia,Tawhid Jahangir, Mikayla Krisanda, Laura Marquez, Finnegan McCormack, Ryan Shearer, Daniel Zhivkovich

MILFORD — Remember us, the Delaware Valley Elementary School kid reporters who spent two days at the National Medal of Honor Convention in Gettysburg this past fall? We had the honor of interviewing dozens of America’s brave Medal of Honor recipients together.

Well, now we (as DVE-News/TV reporters) have had the great honor of interviewing another hero — this time in Albany, N.Y. We got a chance to not only interview, but also to spend a day (March 7) with our hero, Captain Richard Phillips.

Captain and Mrs. Phillips offered to drive half way to meet us rather than have us drive the whole six hours to their home in Vermont. We met at the State Museum in Albany, where the museum staff was absolutely great in helping us to set up and be ready for their arrival. There were also many other reporters who came to cover our interview.

The interview
In our hour long interview with Captain Phillips we learned so much. He was very open and sharing with us about his life and his experience on the seas.

Amazingly, Captain Phillips does not consider himself as a hero but just a normal captain doing his job. He said he is a captain who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that sometimes bad things happen to good people. He feels just lucky to be alive, and especially to have all of his crew alive and well.

When we interviewed Captain Phillips we found out a lot about what happened during the hijacking on his boat. We also found out a lot about his life from his childhood through now. When Captain Phillips was a kid our age he never really thought about being a sailor. He wanted to travel around the world and he loved the ocean, so that is how he ended up as a sailor. He started out working on small ships, and then worked his way up to being a captain on a large container ship.

Captain Phillips grew up in the small town of Winchester, Mass. and he loved sports, reading and the outdoors. He liked school, but did not like math as a kid. Surprisingly, he got his best grades in math in college.

We learned from talking to Captain Phillips that much of the movie ‘Captain Phillips’ is accurately portrayed. Some parts were changed or exaggerated. He said it was hard to fit the four and a half days of the hijacking into just a two and half hour movie. We asked him very tough questions, and he did not hesitate to answer them very openly for us.


Following are some of the many questions we asked, and the answers we received.

“Did you ever lose hope that you would return home alive?” asked Mikayla Krisanda.

“If you lose all hope you are really in trouble,” Captain Phillips replied, “But I was thinking in my head… you’re in trouble Rich. You’re going to have to put your emotions aside and just be a captain and do what is right for your crew.”

Mikayla believes from the conversation that Captain Phillips may have thought he might not return home alive at times, but held everything together by thinking of all the things he cared for but could lose.

“How would you explain the personalities and behaviors of the pirates that captured you?” asked Laura Marquez.

“They were young guys that were just desperately looking for some money,” Captain Phillips answered.

“Did you think your crew executed all the drills correctly?” asked Finnegan McCormack.

“Yes, my crew did a great job. We reacted, thinking at first it was just fishermen coming toward us. But once they came closer we knew they were not just fisherman and we went into real life response,” said Captain Phillips. “I turned on the ‘captain mode’ and took actions to make sure my crew was safe. We did what we knew to do so well from our drills.”

“We read in your book that you feared for your life at many times. Was there a time that you feared for your life most?” asked Ryan Shearer

“There were two times,” Captain Phillips replied. “The first time was when I was in the lifeboat. One pirate kept shooting me with blanks, ‘dry-firing’ at my head. The other time was when all the pirates were at the door walking back and forth, scared, and they were the ones with the AK47s. The look in their eyes changed to one of fear. It was a different look.”

“If you could send a letter to anyone while you were in the lifeboat, who would it be and why?” asked Daniel Zhivkovich.

“I would not have thought of sending a letter to the Navy Seals at the time, but now after all that happened I would probably send a letter to them. They are the real heroes to me,” said the captain.

“Did you have any other incidents in your career like the experience on the Maersk Alabama?” asked Tawhid Jahangir.

“There were fires and other things over the years. Actually one fire may have been worse, because I thought we might have lost some of our crew,” Captain Phillips replied.

“When you were finally free, what was the first thing that you wanted to do?” asked Michelle Andia.

“I wanted to be outside on the deck of my ship and see the ocean and the sunrise, with some cool beverages,” recalled Captain Phillips.

This trip was an excellent chance to learn about what was going through the mind of a true American hero, Captain Philips, when his life and his crew’s lives were at stake. He is very brave and an excellent person to give us advice on ways to survive if anything similar or extremely dangerous ever happens to us. Captain Phillips told us to draw on our inner strength. He said everyone has this strength; they just have to find it and use it.

“Try not to act scared or let them know that they are getting to you,” Captain Phillips told us. “Put fear aside because fear is just that — fear. You can find strength from your inner self when you need it.”

We learned that you can be truly terrified but still rise as a hero.

Thank you, Captain and Mrs. Phillips, for a day none of us will ever forget.

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