SEATTLE - In her first press conference since having her murder conviction overturned in Italy, Amanda Knox spoke briefly about her return home before breaking down in tears.
"I'm a little overhwlemed right now," Knox said, adding that looking down from the airplane on her flight home was surreal.
"Thanks to everyone who believed in me, who has defended me, who supported my family," Knox said before tearing up. "My family's the most important thing right now and i just want to go be with them."
Knox then appeared to be too overcome with emotions to continue.
After Italian prisoners gave her a boisterous send-off, Amanda Knox made her way home to America on earlier Tuesday, holing up with family on the upper deck of a jetliner to Seattle as she enjoyed her first full day of freedom since her murder conviction was reversed.
Knox's mom, Edda Mellas, told the crowd before Knox spoke that "It's because of the letters and the calls and just the amazing support we've received from people all over the world" that they've been able to get by.(Click player at left to watch Knox's statement)
Friends and family who held spaghetti dinners, bowling events and concerts to raise money for Knox's defense waited anxiously for her plane to touch down -- a moment that took four years to happen.
"We all are as happy as can be. I can't tell you how long we've been looking forward to this day," her grandmother Elisabeth Huff told The Associated Press outside her home in West Seattle, a tight-knit community a few miles across Elliott Bay from downtown.
"WELCOME HOME AMANDA," read the marquee at a record store in the neighborhood where Knox grew up. Another welcome sign was hung at her father's house. A bar offered half-price drinks to celebrate her acquittal.
Knox's life turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing of her British roommate. The case played out under an international spotlight, and on Tuesday a courtroom picture of Knox crying after the verdict was read appeared on the front pages of newspapers in Italy, the U.S., Britain and around the world.
The court's decision, fueled by doubts over DNA evidence, stunned the victim's family and angered the prosecution, which insists that she was among three people who killed 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. But for Huff, "it was like the weight of the world had gone."
"Now I can look forward to sleeping at night. We were just jumping with joy," she told The Associated Press outside her Seattle home Tuesday afternoon.
Knox, 24, left Perugia's Capanne prison Monday night amid cheers that a companion compared to those at a soccer stadium.
Hundreds of inmates -- most of them in the men's wing -- shouted "Amanda, ciao!" and "Freedom!" as she walked into the central courtyard, said Corrado Maria Daclon, head of the Italy-US Foundation, which championed Knox's cause.
"They were screaming like crazy," said Daclon, who accompanied Knox in her first hours of freedom. Daclon said Knox jumped a little for joy and waved to the prisoners.
She was soon on her way home, protected by the darkened windows of a Mercedes that led her out of the prison in the middle of the night, and then Tuesday morning to Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport.
"During the trip from Perugia to Rome, Amanda was serene," said Daclon, who was with Knox in the car.
She flew from Rome to London, where she took a direct British Airways flight to Seattle, flying business class with full-length seat and menu options including champagne, smoked salmon and prawn salad.
At least nine members of media organizations were on board, but a flight attendant blocked them from the plane's secluded upper deck "to preserve the privacy" of passengers.
The attendant, quoting a Knox family member, said media were not allowed to contact Knox or her family on the flight but were welcome to attend a news conference late Tuesday afternoon at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It was unclear whether Knox herself would speak then.
"Those who wrote, those who defended me, those who were close, those who prayed for me," Knox wrote in a letter released just hours before leaving Italy, "I love you."
Knox thanked those Italians "who shared my suffering and helped me survive with hope," in a letter to the Italy-US Foundation, which seeks to promote ties between the two countries.