The Walkerville Weekly Reader

National Desk: Hard-hitting journalism from your completely un-biased (pinky swear!) reporters in Walkerville, VA.

Walkerville, VA
Monday, September 18, 2017
Carolyn Purcell, Editor

Terror in the Skies

This is an account of what happened during a domestic flight that one of our writers, Shaheen Hamedi, took from Detroit to Los Angeles. The WWR Editorial Team debated about how to handle this information and ultimately we decided it should be shared.

On June 29, 2004, at 12:28 p.m., I flew on Northwest Airlines flight #327 from Detroit to Los Angeles with some musician friends. We play in a band, and I occasionally join them with my flute for important events. A friend of ours was getting married in Las Vegas, and we were going to meet him in Los Angeles.

What I experienced during that flight has caused me to question whether the United States of America can realistically uphold the civil liberties of every individual, even citizens, and protect its citizens from terrorist threats.

On that Tuesday, our journey began uneventfully. I had just gone to McDonald’s for a burger and fries. Detroit flights invariably leave late, and I needed lunch. This time, however, the flight surprisingly left on time, so I grabbed my flute and took my lunch with me onto the plane.

On the way onto the plane, there was a woman and a man--I assume her husband--forcing their very young son--he couldn’t have been more than five years old--to carry a package almost as large as he was. They must have realized how slowly he was moving, because the woman offered to let us pass onto the plane first. I politely declined.

On the plane, the woman and the man from the start were very nervous. They were looking around at the rest of the passengers and appeared to be worried. I started to worry a little too. Why did she not carry her child’s bag for him? Was there something about the bag? The woman and man whispered to each other. He appeared to be unsure of himself. Then they continued to look nervously around at the rest of the passengers.

By then I was too worried to eat. I asked one of my friends if they had seen a place were I could dump some garbage. He suggested maybe the bathroom? I went to check, and he was right. I kept the prize for my son. When I returned to my seat, I let my friend know, with a hand gesture, that he had been right.

Some hours after I returned, the woman said something to her husband, who was clearly apprehensive about something, as if there was something he needed to do but needed encouragement. Then the woman stood up and started walking right towards me. She looked straight at me all down the aisle and smiled like a zombie!

I didn’t know what to do. I was really scared by then. I just wanted to get to our gig alive! I ignored her and clutched my flute to my chest.

After the woman returned to her seat, the man immediately stood up and walked past me. He went right up to one of the flight attendants, and whispered something to her. I could not hear everything he said, but what I did hear sent shivers down my spine! They were in on something, and it was going to happen “higher up”.

Ten minutes later that same flight attendant went to the man and woman and leaned over, and warned them that there were federal air marshals all around. “Don’t tell anyone, but we could be in trouble,” she said.

After another fifteen or twenty minutes, the flight attendant and the couple surreptitiously passed a note. By now I am extremely worried, but I don’t know who to tell. What was going on? How many flight attendants were in on it?

Finally, the captain announced that we were landing, and that everyone should finish what they were doing and take their seats. Four hours since taking off from Detroit, and my worries--one way or another--would be over. I realized that I had not relieved myself since the flight began, and I needed to do so quickly. Apparently some of the rest of the passengers did, too, so I had to wait in line for the restroom.

Apparently, we were not the only ones who noticed something odd about the couple and their child, because as soon as we got off of the plane, federal authorities took several of the passengers aside, including myself, and interviewed us about the flight and about the man and woman. I told them what I knew about their package and about their conversations with the flight attendant, and then I went home.

The next day, I began searching on-line for news about the incident. There was nothing. I asked a local friend of mine who works at the LA Times if there were any arrests at LAX that day. There weren't.

I have heard nothing about this in the news since, but a few weeks later I found out through my friend in the Times that that flight attendant was let go from the airline. But she was not arrested and as far as he knew she was free to get a job at another airline. What really happened? I’ll let you decide.

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