High schools students ready for Phillips appearance

STEUBENVILLE – High school students from around our region are responding to the opportunity to see the next presentation in the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series at no charge, officials with the series have said.

All of the general admission tickets to the April 3 appearance of Capt. Richard Phillips in the Steubenville High School auditorium are being made available to high schools throughout the area, thanks to the participation of the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley.

“The response from schools in our area so far has been very good,” said Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. “Because of the generosity of the Health Plan, area young people will have the opportunity to learn about an historical event from a person who actually lived through it.”

Weir High and Linsly are among the schools that already are participating.

Phillips was the captain of the Maersk Alabama when the cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2009. He was held hostage for five days in a small lifeboat as the eyes of the world became riveted on the waters off the coast of Somalia. His ordeal came to an end when Navy SEALS determined he was in imminent danger and took out his captors.

He shared his story in the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS and Dangerous Days at Sea,” which inspired the 2013 film “Captain Phillips.” That movie, in which Tom Hanks portrays Phillips, has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actor. That nomination went to Barkhad Abdi, who portrays the lead pirate.

This year’s Academy Awards will be presented on March 2. It’s interesting to note that Abdi earned best supporting actor accolades when the British Academy Film Awards were presented last Sunday. The BAFTAs are considered to be an important indicator of Oscar success.

Joining the Herald-Star and chamber as presenting sponsors of the series are Eastern Gateway Community College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Health Plan, Trinity Health System and WTRF-TV. Special support is being provided by Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast, Apollo Pro Cleaning, Piergallini Catering, Newbrough Photo, Thrifty Car Rental and Steubenville City Schools.

The Maersk Alabama remains a ship of intrigue. On Friday, police in the island nation of Seychelles said autopsies will be performed this week on the bodies of two former SEALs found dead on a ship,

Maersk Line said in a statement on Thursday that drugs were found in the room of the Maersk Alabama where the two men were found on Tuesday.

A statement from the Seychelles police on Friday said that despite the reports of drugs being found, the police “never released any reports suggesting” that the two Americans may have died from a drug overdose.

The police said next week’s autopsies are expected to establish the cause of the two deaths.

The presentation by Phillips will be the third in the series, which began in November 2012 when more than 900 area residents gathered in the high school auditorium to hear retired Secret Service Agent Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin speak. Hill, who served on the protective detail of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, is the agent seen jumping onto the back of the presidential limousine during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

Last April, Antonio Mendez, the retired CIA officer whose efforts to rescue six American hostages from the Canadian embassy in Tehran were dramatized in the Academy Award-winning film “Argo,” and his wife, Jonna, spoke to more than 900 area residents in the high school auditorium.

“One of the goals of our series is to bring top-quality speakers to our community,” Gallabrese said. “Our first two speakers have offered the type of presentations that are not always available in communities our size. Phillips has a compelling story to tell, one we’re sure area residents will find interesting.

The tickets which are being offered to the area high schools for the 7:30 p.m. presentation are for balcony seating in the auditorium. Distribution to the students is being handled by officials in each individual school. Students who are interested in attending should contact school officials concerning ticket availability.

Reserved seat tickets for the presentation cost $20 and are available by contacting the Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square, Steubenville, at (740) 283-4711, or the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, 630 Market St., Steubenville, at (740) 282-6226. A limited number of VIP packages are available. The packages, which cost $150 a person, include a private reception with Phillips at the Garret House on North Fourth Street prior to the presentation; cocktails; hors d’oeurves; a picture with Phillips; an autographed copy of the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea” or DVD of the film “Captain Phillips;” and a ticket to the presentation. Call the Herald-Star or chamber for details and availability.

Phillips will be signing copies of at the end of the presentation. The book can be purchased for $12 plus tax at the Herald-Star.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)