CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A U.S. journalist said Wednesday that he was overwhelmed to learn that so many "brave, determined and big-hearted" people were behind efforts to secure his release from a Syrian extremist group.
Peter Theo Curtis, who was freed Sunday after 22 months in captivity, wore sandals and a gray T-shirt in his first public appearance. He returned to the United States Tuesday night.
"I have learned bit by bit that there have been hundreds of people, brave determined and big-hearted people all over the world working for my release. They've been working for two years on this," he said outside his mother's home in Cambridge.
"I had no idea when I was in prison. I had no idea that so much effort was being expended on my behalf," he said.
Curtis, 45, of Boston, was released by al-Nusra Front, a Sunni extremist group.
He says he is also grateful for the many people, including strangers, who have welcomed him back since his return.
"I suddenly remembered how good the American people are," he said.
Last week, American journalist James Foley, who also was kidnapped in 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising, was killed. The Islamic State group posted a video showing his beheading.
The extremists said they killed the native of Rochester, New Hampshire, in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes targeting Islamic State positions in northern Iraq.
Curtis' mother Nancy said in a statement Tuesday night she was "overwhelmed with relief" that her son had been returned to her.
"But this is a sober occasion because of the events of the past week," she said. "My heart goes out to the other families who are suffering."
U.S. freelance journalist, Austin Tice of Houston, disappeared in Syria in August 2012. He is believed to be held by the Syrian government.