Terror in the Skies -- Again?
Terror in the Skies -- Again?
WomensWallStreet.com | July 16, 2004
On June 29, 2004, at 12:28 p.m., I flew on Northwest Airlines flight #327 from Detroit to Los Angeles
with my husband and our young son.
Also on our flight were 14 Middle Eastern men between the ages
of approximately 20 and 50 years old.
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
non-citizens, and protect its citizens from terrorist threats.
On that Tuesday, our journey began uneventfully. Starting out that morning in Providence, Rhode
Island, we went through security screening, flew to Detroit, and passed the time waiting for our
connecting flight to Los Angeles by shopping at the airport stores and eating lunch at an airport diner.
With no second security check required in Detroit we headed to our gate and waited for the pre-boarding
announcement. Standing near us, also waiting to pre-board, was a group of six Middle Eastern men.
They were carrying blue passports with Arabic writing. Two men wore tracksuits with Arabic writing
across the back. Two carried musical instrument cases – thin, flat, 18" long. One wore a yellow T-shirt
and held a McDonald's bag. And the sixth man had a bad leg -- he wore an orthopedic shoe and limped.
When the pre-boarding announcement was made, we handed our tickets to the Northwest Airlines agent,
and walked down the jetway with the group of men directly behind us.
My four-year-old son was determined to wheel his carry-on bag himself, so I turned to the men behind
me and said, "You go ahead, this could be awhile." "No, you go ahead," one of the men replied. He
smiled pleasantly and extended his arm for me to pass. He was young, maybe late 20's and had a
I thanked him and we boarded the plan.
Once on the plane, we took our seats in coach (seats 17A, 17B and 17C). The man with the yellow shirt
and the McDonald's bag sat across the aisle from us (in seat 17E). The pleasant man with the goatee sat a
few rows back and across the aisle from us (in seat 21E).
The rest of the men were seated throughout
the plane, and several made their way to the back.
As we sat waiting for the plane to finish boarding, we noticed another large group of Middle Eastern
The first man wore a dark suit and sunglasses. He sat in first class in seat 1A, the seat
second-closet to the cockpit door.
The other seven men walked into the coach cabin.
Americans, my husband and I exchanged glances, and then continued to get comfortable.
some of the other passengers paying attention to the situation as well.
As boarding continued, we
watched as, one by one, most of the Middle Eastern men made eye contact with each other.
continued to look at each other and nod, as if they were all in agreement about something. I could tell
that my husband was beginning to feel "anxious."
The take-off was uneventful.