For the last week, their parents have worried about their safety as news of the nuclear disaster in Japan unfolded. American Airlines gave loved ones special passes Friday evening so they could greet the children at the gate.
One mother greeted her two daughters.
Jennifer Prestifilippo and her husband were one of several families who came out to RDU to welcome home the seven remaining students who returned a day early from a trip to visit their sister school in Hiroshima.
"The earthquake was a little stressful but once we got passed that, we had a great time," eighth grader Tara Boldrin said.
Southern Japan was virtually untouched by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked the northern part of the country. That's why the group decided to continue on their journey.
But as fears of a nuclear meltdown continued to spread, the students returned a day early -- too soon for a group that seemed eager to learn more about the Japanese culture and spend more time with the new friends they made a world away.
"Really sad," eighth grader Zack DeMartz said. "I'm going to keep in touch with them, though."
"It was a great opportunity and a wonderful experience, and we're glad that they got to stay as long as they did and we're clearly happy that they're home," Zack's mom, Kim DeMartz said.
The parents say the experience has brought them closer as a group. Now, the plan for most of the families is to get some much needed rest.