CHICAGO (CBS) – Americans arrived at O’Hare Airport on the first flight from Tokyo since the earthquake hit Japan.

CBS2’s Mike Parker heard some of the stories from those who were there when the earth shook and people began to die. Their stories also tell of the courage of the Japanese people.

Alex Parker reunited with her boyfriend Thomas Brown from Bridgeman, Michigan as he stepped off United flight 882 from Tokyo. As she hugged and kissed him, Brown said, “I think she’s better now.”

Brown is back after spending nine weeks working for General Electric at the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant. His assignment ended just before the quake hit and the plant was plunged into a state of emergency.

Brown is optimistic about the nuclear operation.

“Sounds like everything is still okay and there’s just going to be a lot of checks to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.

“We just have to hope and pray that everything’s okay and we get the rest of our crew back home.”

Some of the passengers getting off the flight declined to relive the past few days. Others wanted to share, including businessman Tom Gruger.

“We were on the sixth floor of an office building in downtown Tokyo, started to sway and we got under a table, then we finally ran out into the street.” Gruger said the experience was “overwhelming and humbling.”

Passenger August Astroch of Charlotte, N.C. said “The pilot made a couple of comments before we landed that we ought to be thinking about the people still back there, so I’m just glad to be here.”

Kevin Brady of northwest suburban Cary agreed with the pilot. “The experience for me was not important,” he said. “The Japanese people have really suffered. They’ve shown great character. As a society, they pull together in these things. It was really, really something to witness.”

Passenger Tony Tsai of New York was thrilled to be in Chicago. “So I’m safe,” he shouted. God bless me and God bless you and everybody.”

Michael Tate, who lives on Okinawa said that everyone in Japan “always talks about the big one.” He said this was probably close to it. “There was,” he said, “a lot of fear.”

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