This week-end I saw the movie, A Mighty Heart, the story of Daniel Pearl, a young journalist for the Wall Street Journal. Daniel and his wife Mariane, who is a French reporter, arrived in Pakistan soon after the 9/11 attack on the U.S. to cover the rise and spread of Islamic terrorism from out of the Middle East. On January 23, 2002, Pearl was kidnapped by Islamic extremists and murdered in a gruesome live video that was shown around the world. For two hours I was caught up in the attempts to find and rescue him, led by his brave wife and a coldly efficient Pakistani intelligence officer. The movie is a thriller, but is more a love story based on Mariane Pearl's determination to honor her husband by trying to make some sense out of the religious and political madness that is now the Middle East.
After seeing the movie I had to stop off at a bookstore and get Mariane's memoir--A Mighty Heart. And so, for the past couple of days I have been in the Middle East. . .Strangely, as I learned more about the Pearl story, I began to remember what had happened in my own life in the three months after 9/11 and was intrigued to see some personal connections to this event. Which goes to show, our lives are intertwined with those of strangers around the world in ways we will never understand.
In October 2001 I was scheduled to spend almost a month in western Ukraine volunteering with the Citizen's Network for Foreign Affairs, a U.S. agency which provides aid and technical assistance for under-developed countries. My assignment was to train groups of farm women to set up councils and agricultural cooperatives to manage their farms and earn better livings for their families. These women had little experience with private land ownership and farming, having spent most of their lives working on Soviet run collective farms. And then, we were attacked on 9/11 and after a lot of twisting in the wind I decided to postpone the trip--the only thing separating Ukraine and the Middle East was the Black Sea and it's not that much water! However, in December 2001, I did go ahead with the assignment spending the coldest month ever just south of Siberia in western Ukraine!
Now, here's where the coincidences start to happen. On December 21 I'm anxiously waiting at the Kiev, Ukraine airport for my flight to Amsterdam and then on to the U.S.--home just in time for Christmas. The flight was delayed for several hours, not good news for making the Amsterdam connection as it turns out. After reading A Mighty Heart, I now learn that also on December 21 in Paris Richard Reid, the infamous "shoe bomber" and Al Qaeda terrorist, was trying to get on a Paris to Miami flight wearing shoes rigged with explosives and with directions from his Pakistani trainer to blow up the flight. Airport questioning made him miss that flight, but on December 22 he did make it on another flight to the U.S. As you remember, Reid was prevented from lighting the explosives in his shoes by some observant passengers who spotted his cigarette lighter and overpowered him, thus saving the flight. Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered just one month later while trying to meet and interview the Al Qaeda leader who ordered Reid's mission.
Meanwhile, as I feared, on arriving in Amsterdam from Kiev several hours late, I was told that my flight to Detroit had just left. So here I am in a foreign airport two days before Christmas with no idea how to get booked on another flight and not able to speak a word of anything except English(thankfully other countries don't have our arrogant attitude that English should be the universal language--but that's for another blog). So, my tactic was to walk a few paces, ask directions, and then move on until I ended up at the ticket counter where I was able to get on a jammed flight to the U.S. after a long delay. I'm not even sure what day it was. But back to the connections. There was no breaking news about Richard Reid as we waited in the airport, but I was separated out of the passenger group with others appearing to be Middle Easterners for questioning. My formal name," Fadia", given to me by my grandmother from a fairy tale book at a home birth in the mountains of eastern Kentucky-- is, I now know, Middle Eastern. Thankfully, I was able to convince security that my blue eyes and freckles were Scots-Irish and that I had legitimate business in the Ukraine.
One comic addition to this tale: my Ukrainian interpreter had given me a huge bottle of champagne as a parting gift and in my mad dash through the airport I just wanted to get rid of any excess hand luggage. So, I tucked the bottle behind a toilet in an airport restroom. I thought about how foolish that was later and wondered if I caused an airport shut down when cleanup crews discovered that suspicious package. . .
So, here on Sunday night I am still thinking about Daniel and Mariane Pearl and how all of us, when given the opportunity need to look for ways to share our beliefs and customs with others as one way to stop the madness in the world.
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.