Remarks Announcing the Release of the Hostages From the Trans World Airlines Hijacking Incident
Good afternoon. The 39 Americans held hostage for 17 days by terrorists in Lebanon are free, safe, and at this moment, on their way to Frankfurt, Germany. They'll be home again soon. This is a moment of joy for them, for their loved ones, and for our nation. And America opens its heart in a prayer of thanks to Almighty God.
We can be thankful that our faith, courage, and firmness have paid off. But this is no moment for celebration. Let it be clearly understood that the seven Americans still held captive in Lebanon must be released along with other innocent hostages from other countries; that the murderers of Robert Stethem and of our marines and civilians in El Salvador must be held accountable; that those responsible for terrorist acts throughout the world must be taken on by civilized nations; that the international community must ensure that all our airports are safe and that civil air travel is safeguarded; and that the world must unite in taking decisive action against terrorists, against nations that sponsor terrorists, and against nations that give terrorists safe haven.
This drama has reminded us how precious and fragile are the freedoms and standards of decency of civilized societies; how greatly civilized life depends on trust in other human beings; but how those values we hold most dear must also be defended with bravery—a bravery that may lie quiet and deep, but that will rise to answer our call in every time of peril. Freedom, democracy, and peace have enemies; they must also have steadfast friends.
The United States gives terrorists no rewards and no guarantees. We make no concessions; we make no deals. Nations that harbor terrorists undermine their own stability and endanger their own people. Terrorists, be on notice, we will fight back against you, in Lebanon and elsewhere. We will fight back against your cowardly attacks on American citizens and property.
Several countries have been actively involved in efforts to free our fellow citizens. Syria has had a central responsibility. The efforts of the Algerian Government were likewise an example of constructive cooperation against the direct challenge of lawless terrorists. King Hussein spoke out early and forcefully in condemning the hijacking. Saudi Arabia also made an effective contribution. Throughout the past 17 days, we have also been in close touch with Israel and a number of governments in Europe and the Middle East, as well as with international organizations—all of which displayed great concern for the safety and release of the hostages.
We will remember and offer our thanks to all who helped us and who stood with us. And, yes, we'll remember those who did not. We will not rest until justice is done. We will not rest until the world community meets its responsibility. We call upon those who helped secure the release of these TWA passengers to show even greater energy and commitment to secure the release of all others held captive in Lebanon. And we call upon the world community to strengthen its cooperation to stamp out this ugly, vicious evil of terrorism.
I just want to inject a personal note here that, like all of you, Nancy and I have been living with all these 17 days, and like you, we have both been praying for what has now taken place. And like you, we thank God and wait with bated breath their final arrival here on our shores.
Note: The President spoke at 6:01 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. His remarks were broadcast live on nationwide radio and television.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks Announcing the Release of the Hostages From the Trans World Airlines Hijacking Incident Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/259574