This morning, my friend Kim Priestap sent a group of us an email telling about the Yemeni man arrested for trying to yank open the cockpit door while hollering the standard “Allahu Akbar!” Lee DeCovnik thinks we might have been seeing a dry run. The man apparently raced from one end of the plane (the bathroom in the rear) all the way up to the front (the cockpit), and then tried to open the door:
There were a couple of disturbing items in this dry run. First, this was a single “dry runner” who was most likely timing the walk from the rear lavatory and the noting response from the aircrew, while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” We also know that other dry runs have had up to 13 possible hijackers on a single flight. Was this a dry run of the initial diversion, where the real action may start in the rear of the aircraft, where aircrews are often located?
Second, this dry run was so blatant, so unsubtle, that you have to wonder if this incident itself was a diversion from other airline or routes. Or conversely, because this was so blatant, will the authorities continue to give special significance to these particular circumstances? That’s a tough call by the Homeland Security either way.
Upon first hearing the news from Kim, I immediately fired a very silly email back to my friends:
A la the 24 hour spin that followed bin Laden’s death, we’ll soon be hearing that he was actually yelling “I need a bathroom” and was simply banging at the wrong door.
It was a joke. I was joking. Really. Except I was also apparently plugged into the “lone crazy man/lone confused Muslim” line that is now de rigueur for all sudden jihad syndrome attacks. When I trolled over to the British papers a few minutes ago, this is the first thing I saw:
The Yemeni man who was wrestled to the floor after pounding on the cockpit door of a plane approaching San Francisco may have mistaken it for the bathroom.
Rageit Almurisi cannot speak English very well and could have misunderstood the signs inside the jet, his cousin claimed.
The 28-year-old, who was heard yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’, had also only been on three planes in his life and would have been unfamiliar with the layout.
Almurisi had been taking classes in English but was not happy with his progress. His cousin said: ‘He might have seriously mistaken the cockpit for the bathroom. He’s only been on three planes in his whole life.’
I find it embarrassing that my shallow, silly little joke turns out to be the party line.
Also, one does rather wonder how many flights people have to take before they start to understand the basic toilet versus cockpit principles. Five? Twelve? Thirty-seven? Does it matter if one was educated in a Madrassa, as opposed to PS 157?
Cross-posted at Bookworm Room