Captain Richard Phillips now knows to never trust a pirate.
That’s what the once-kidnapped ships captain told students at Lynn Classical High School last Thursday afternoon concerning his ordeal with Somali pirates in April 2009.
“I wasn’t some sort of sacrificial lamb as has often been reported in the media inaccurately, but rather I saw my primary duty as getting the pirates off of our ship,” Phillips told the students. “We set up an exchange. They would get our lifeboat and then release me. In the end, they didn’t let me go. It’s another lesson I learned: Never trust a pirate.”
Over two hours, Phillips explained how he went from a happy-go-lucky high school student in Winchester during the 1970s to a ships captain in the Merchant Marines to a ships captain hijacked by Somali pirates.
He told of how the crew had prepared for a pirate attack the day before, and how they fought off the pirates when they boarded the ship on what he described as “a perfect day on the ocean for a pirate attack.”
He also told students how he persevered over several days in sweltering heat with his arms and legs bound – being berated and beaten and threatened with AK-47s by the pirates.
He also told about his eventual rescue by U.S. Navy Seals, whom he called the true heroes of his story.
“You are much stronger than you even know,” he said. “You can do more and take more than you know and nothing is over until you choose to give up.”
Phillips’s visit was prompted by the entire school reading the details of his account in his book during the school’s summer reading program.
Phillips retired as a ships captain in June, and does speaking engagements about his time as a captain and his ordeal in being kidnapped on the high seas by pirates – the first time that had happened since the 1800s.
He was in the Merchant Marine for 35 years, spending 24 as a captain.