The Day I Was Mistaken For A Terrorist

For some reason, people sometimes mistake me for a terrorist. Once I got interrogated by an air marshal for merely looking out a window, and the following year in London I totally freaked out several people on a bus.

The second incident was, I suppose, partially my fault. I boarded a city bus with a large suitcase, which I put on the luggage rack. Since the rack was right next to the door, I moved a little away from it so I wouldn’t be in the way.

For a couple of minutes I stood there, keeping an eye on my bag and not listening to the buzz of voices around me. One conversation, however, began to get my attention.

“I just don’t think it looks right,” a worried woman’s voice said.

“Well, then mention it to the driver,” a man said.

“I don’t want to make a fuss,” the woman replied.

“Look, you’re worried about it just sitting there. You don’t see the owner. So go up to the driver and mention it,” the man said. He didn’t sound worried himself. Instead he sounded a bit condescending.

I turned to them.”Are you talking about my bag?” I asked.

A wave of relief washed over the woman’s face.

“Yes!” she cried. “I didn’t see you put it down and nobody was standing around it, and I got very worried.”

“Don’t worry, no bomb in it, just a bunch of dirty clothes,” I said. Then I turned to the man next to her. “But you didn’t seem worried.”

He shrugged. “Nobody would need a bag that big to blow up a bus.”

I laughed. “Well maybe I’m a really inefficient bomber and I don’t know how to mix explosives correctly.”

“Oh no,” he dismissed that idea. “That is a huge bag. If it was filled with explosives you could barely lift it.”

I studied them for a moment and said, “So how do you know I’m really not a terrorist? All you have is my word.”

They looked back at me – middle-aged, middle-class, white me. The woman suddenly looked embarrassed. The man looked defiant.

“You don’t fit the profile,” he said.

“Remember Timothy McVeigh?” I asked.

He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “The right wing loons in your country rarely do such things. Most terrorists look nothing like you.”

I smiled at him. “Who’s to say I’m not a right-wing loon?”

“WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP THIS CONVERSATION?!!!” A woman squawked from a few rows back.

“Sorry ma’am. This was all hypothetical,” I said.

She immediately looked relieved, just like the first woman. All it took was a reassuring word from a complete stranger – a light-skinned, well-spoken stranger.

She, too, had missed the point.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

9/11 Memorial advance tickets on sale today

After many years of construction, the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City will open on September 12. Advance tickets go on sale today.

It’s officially called the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and entrance is free but reservations must be made over the Internet in advance from the memorial’s website. A phone line will also open to handle group requests of ten or more people. Entry is carefully timed and all visitors must go through security. Once inside, however, visitors can stay as long as they like.

The museum’s opening ceremony will take place on September 11, but entry is reserved for officials and relatives of the victims.

Advance tickets are necessary because the memorial can only hold about 1,500 people at a time.

[9/11 Memorial photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Wannabe JFK airport bomber found guilty

The final participant in the plot to blow up New York City’s JFK airport has been found guilty of five counts of conspiracy.

Kareem Ibrahim of Trinidad was one of four conspirators who in 2007 hoped to blow up fuel tanks and fuel lines at JFK airport, causing major loss of life. The lines also run under a nearby neighborhood and the terrorists hoped to blow that up too. Two other conspirators, Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir, are already serving life sentences, and Abdel Nur received fifteen years for his role in the plot.

In his defense, Ibrahim claimed he didn’t really want to blow up the airport, saying, “I just went along and hoped it would fizzle out.”

What kind of lame-ass excuse is that? Who starts something that big and doesn’t plan to finish? That would be like if I enrolled in university with the intention of dropping out my sophomore year, or had a kid with the plan to ditch him when he’s ten.

Luckily the judge didn’t buy that line either, Ibrahim will be sentenced on October 21.

[Photo courtesy USGS]