NEW YORK, NY - JULY 26: Kelly Ripa attends the OCRF's 17th Annual Super Saturday Hosted By Kelly Ripa And Donna Karan on July 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images) Mike Coppola
Photo: Mike Coppola
Photo: Mike Coppola

Kelly Ripa returns: 'Our long national nightmare is over'

Kelly Ripa returned to "Live!" Tuesday morning after a four-day absence from the show. 

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She walked onto the stage to hearty clapping and a standing ovation from fans. At one point, Ripa looked close to tears.

"Our long national nightmare is over," she said after urging the excited audience to settle down.

"I first want to honestly, sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to the show," she said. "The love, the show of support through this bizarre time has been really overwhelming."

Michael Strahan announced on April 19 that he would be leaving "Live!" in September for a full-time position with "Good Morning America." Ripa found out about Strahan's depature just an hour before the announcement, but "GMA" co-hosts Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos knew in advance, CNN reported.

>> Kelly Ripa didn't know Michael Strahan was leaving 'Live!'

She told ABC on the evening of April 19 that she would not appear on the show the next day. Actress Ana Gasteyer filled in for Ripa Wednesday. "Dancing With the Stars" co-host Erin Andrews filled in for Ripa Thursday and Friday, and Actress Shay Mitchell co-hosted with Strahan on Monday. 

Ripa confirmed Tuesday that she had already planned to be out Friday and Monday to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary in Turks and Caicos with her husband, Mark Consuelos.

"I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. After 26 years with this company, I earned the right," she said on the show Tuesday. "And let's be honest, I know half of you called in sick to be here, so we get each other."

She continued:

"In that time, I gained some perspective. What transpired over the course of a few days has been extraordinary in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and most importantly, respect in the workplace. And since we're being honest, I don't consider this just a workplace. This is my second home. This is a place that I've devoted myself to not just because of you, our loyal viewers, but because of all the producers and the crew who work on this show. We have an incredible team. We are incredibly devoted to one another. We are family. Apologies have been made, and the best thing to come out of all of this is that our parent company has assured me that 'Live!' is a priority."

She finished by saying that she is "thrilled" for Strahan.

>> Michael Strahan to leave 'Live with Kelly,' join 'GMA'

"This is a tremendous opportunity, and I couldn't be prouder of you," she told him.

"Back to the show," she said, sitting down next to Strahan.