The Atlanta Bomber

Suicide Bombers 300x225 The Atlanta Bomber

This happened January 2004. I was making my way back to London from Atlanta after spending the New Year’s there. My friend and I arrived at Atlanta Hartsfield airport and were due to take a plane to Texas to then change to go back to London. (Do not even ask me why as Texas is further away but this was the cheapest option at the time)

 We get to the airport and I remember the person at the checkout desk trying to hurry us onto an earlier plane. We didn’t know why at the time but I remember that we didn’t want to as we didn’t want to rush or hang around Texas for hours on end. So anyway we hang around the airport… take our time and then make our way to the gate at the designated time of our original flight.

 When we get to the gate we kind of realised why they wanted to put us on an earlier flight… it looked like they were going to put everyone from the later flight onto the earlier one as there were only 3 other passengers on the seats by the gate. So my friend and I sit down and not far from us there is a slightly overweight white man with wispy white hair around balding edges… He looked kind of scruffy too. The other two passengers sitting next to him were a woman and her son… both were white with dark hair and the mother looked like she couldn’t handle the child. We assumed they were a family as the man kept telling the child off and telling him to watch his behaviour. As we go to sit down the woman and the child go wandering off somewhere

 We sit down the man asks us if we are from Jamaica. We thought it was odd that he asked this, and told him that we were from London. He then asked me what was in my bag and started barking at my bag like a dog. I just looked at him blankly and thought that he must be mad… although I was a little disturbed by this I tried not to show it. Then he proceed to ask about our views about the war in Iraq and kept barking during the pauses in his tirade about how people were justified in the bombings and how we should watch what was in our bags.  By now I am actually wondering whether this nutter had planted a bomb in my bag… He was going on and on, so much so that we were now really concerned especially since he had a slight bulge under his jumper that was oddly shaped and didn’t quite look like flesh.

At this stage my friend and I leave his vicinity and make our way to the Ladies bathroom to hold conference. Whilst walking to the bathroom we both agree that the man most definitely is a sicko and could be carrying a bomb, as his jumper is bulky and oddly shaped. I am not normally a paranoid person but these were times of heightened security and we were both convinced that he was carrying a bomb… Then as if to confirm our suspicions when arriving in the bathroom we hear a whispering coming from one of the stalls and lo and behold who emerges from the stall but the woman he was with… Now we are convinced she is calling her handlers keeping them informed of the progress of the “hit”. We were freaking out and so went up to someone in airport security and told her what had happened. She walked back with us to the gate area and beckoned the man and took him away. I was sooo happy he was gone and felt a lot safer.

 When the plane is ready to board a call is made and we get up and go to give our tickets and passports when the “bomber” re-emerges. I swear I nearly had a heart attack. My friend and I fall back and let him go in front of us. Then we ask why he was being allowed onto the plane and were told that he had been spoken to and searched and was not deemed a threat. By now we are freaking out and asking if we can get on another plane because we did not want to get on the plane with him and the airport staff lady kept trying to reassure us and tell us there was nothing to worry about.

So anyway we get on the plane and take a seat not too far from the bomber and the sight of the 5 foot 3 air hostess, the bomber mumbling to himself and his accomplices sitting away from him sends us into panic mode. Now he is giving us daggers probably because we had him searched and now we are thinking that even if he doesn’t have a bomb his fat ass and his skanky lady friend who seems to be pretending not to know him might try and start a fight on the plane… So my friend keeps whispering to me that she has a bad feeling about the whole thing especially the fact that the man and woman are pretending not to know each other now… and that her life is not worth a crumby plane ride that she’s rather sleep in the airport… So we agree we are going to get off the plane.

 We approach the airhostess and tell her that we want to get off and that the plane isn’t safe and she tells us that we cannot as the doors have shut. My friend is now telling her that she better open the door because we have to get off and she is repeatedly telling us we can’t. I have never felt so scared in my life. It was an awful feeling. So then we make the decision that if we sit next to him he cannot detonate any bomb, as we will be watching his hands… My friend is telling me that we “must keep our enemy close” as this is the only chance we have of survival. So we make the decision that if we see his hand make any move under his jumper we will simply attack him.

We get up from our seat and he is sitting on the middle seat in one of those rows of three chairs… so I climb over him to sit in the window seat and my friend plonks herself in the aisle seat. He seems surprisingly calm considering we were on a basically empty plane and we have chosen to invade all his space. My friend tells him, “We just thought we would keep you company.” He doesn’t seem bothered and quite happily engages in conversation telling us that he has just come from Jamaica and travels there on his own quite a lot and is a teacher in Chicago. After about an hour I start to relax a little and it turns out that he really is an alright man and very knowledgeable too…. We came of the plane laughing and in conversation with the “bomber” we both realised that we were overly paranoid and he was just an eccentric old man.

To this day we still crack up about this story and can’t understand what had made us so paranoid, although my friend still says that maybe he did have a bomb but decided we were alright and so didn’t blow himself up! Now that I look back… The airport staff and the airhostess must have thought we were on drugs!  I feel really bad for reporting him to security and planning to attack him on a plane as it seems that he was just an eccentric old man and he really didn’t know the woman and child that he had been sitting with when we first saw him… he just generally was in the habit of talking to strangers!

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