"Laura & Euna, The Current family welcomes you home!" With those words draped across the side of Current TV's Web site on Tuesday, the San Francisco-based media company finally broke its silence on the detention of two of its journalists.
Current TV had been criticized for its silence during the nearly five-month ordeal of its journalists. The Bay Area had no problem expressing its joy for the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee.
Celebrations were taking place in San Francisco and across the state Tuesday evening to celebrate the release of the journalists from North Korea.
The pair was pardoned early Tuesday after former President Bill Clinton negotiated the release of the journalists who work for Al Gore's company.
The journalists were arrested March 17 near the North Korean border, reportedly while working on a story about human trafficking along the Tumen River border area between China and North Korea for Current TV.
Rebecca Delgado Rottman, who works for San Francisco's Academy of Art University, organized an impromptu celebration a. at a university gallery located after hearing about the journalists' release.
Rottman said she plans to invite Ling and Lee to an event in San Francisco in the coming weeks once the women have recovered from their ordeal.
She said she spoke Tuesday afternoon with Lee's husband, Michael Saldate, and that the phone call was "just so happy and ecstatic ... all we could do was cry, but it was tears of joy."
The families of Ling and Lee released a statement Tuesday afternoon, on a Web site run by family and friends, that had provided updates on the women and how to help them.
"The families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee are overjoyed by the news of their pardon. We are so grateful to our government: President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the U.S. State Department for their dedication to and hard work on behalf of American citizens," the family said.
The family also thanked former President Clinton "for taking on such an arduous mission" and former Vice President Al Gore, who is the chairman of Current TV, "for his tireless efforts to bring Laura and Euna home."
Lastly, the family thanked "all the people who have supported our families through this ordeal, it has meant the world to us. We are counting the seconds to hold Laura and Euna in our arms."
Ling and Lee both live in Los Angeles, and their families are awaiting their return there, according to Rottman, vice president of community relations for the university. Lee graduated from the university's School of Motion Pictures and Television in 2001.
Rottman said she did not personally know Lee, but has grown close to the families since helping to organize a vigil at the university in June.
Reporters without Borders, an international journalist advocacy group, had released a statement earlier today calling for the release of the journalists. The group said the women were suffering health problems because of their detention.
Rottman did not know whether the women had health problems, but said she's sure that "whatever medical problem that ignited during the time will be fixed immediately. The most important and most powerful medicine is to be home with their family."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein released separate statements this afternoon lauding the release of Ling and Lee.
"Maria and I happily join all Californians in celebrating the pardon of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Both women risked their lives to search for truth in an area of the world where the press is often censored, and I applaud those who worked to negotiate their pardon," Schwarzenegger said.
"Our heartfelt thoughts are with the families of Euna and Laura, and we wish them both a safe return to California," he said.
Feinstein said, "This has been an extremely difficult time for all involved, and I am grateful that this humanitarian gesture will allow them to begin a new chapter of their lives."
Bay City News contributed to this story.