Friday, February 19, 2010
Passengers who flew with accused underwear bomber speak out
The weeks have passed and, in most cases, their nerves have calmed. What began as shock, that they were almost victims of an in-flight terrorist attack, has morphed for many into contemplation. There are those who are still talking about what happened to them on Christmas Day, and there are others who are determined to put the incident behind them.
The passengers of Northwest Flight 253 may have been one faulty explosive away from disaster.
The suspect in that incident, Nigerian-born Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, 23, pleaded not guilty in January to six federal terrorism charges. And he has been talking to authorities, thanks to help from his own family members.
But what if the passengers could be part of that conversation? What would they want to know or say to AbdulMutallab, the government, the world? CNN reached out by phone and e-mail to find out.
More than anything, if they could sit down with AbdulMutallab they would simply ask: Why? How did a young man who grew up with privilege, education and exposure to the greater world end up accused of attempting a terrorist attack?
"For me, these are the burning questions," said Roey Rosenblith, 27, who co-founded Village Energy, a company in Uganda that hopes to help bring solar electricity to the 80 percent of Africans who have no electrical power. "I've never had someone try to murder me, much less someone I didn't even know. So I'm very interested in finding out more about [his] motives so that we might possibly figure out how to avert others from traveling down the same path."
Could the fact that AbdulMutallab is talking to officials signal he has regret, Rosenblith wonders. If not, if he is a "lost cause," Rosenblith said he wouldn't care to waste breath speaking to him.
Interactive: Hear passengers on plane
"I don't spend a lot of time seeking out conversations with Holocaust deniers, Islamic fundamentalists or religious fanatics of any stripe," he said. "I guess I've decided that people that are beyond the pale of reason are simply that and nothing I say will convince them otherwise."
Melinda Dennis, 31, was sitting about an arm's length from AbdulMutallab when he was taken up to first class after the incident. She stared at him, and his blank expression. Now she says she'd rather speak to others considering the path he is accused of taking.
"No matter what nationality we are or religion we choose, we are still people. I am a human being, a person that faces each day trying to make myself better and enrich the lives of people who know me," said Dennis, who's lived the past year-and-a-half in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where she works as a manufacturing project manager. "Whether I live or die should not be decided on the whim of a person that wishes to brand all Americans as evil people. I am not defined by my nationality, but I believe in the goodness that resides in the people of every country."
READ THE REST OF THE STORY ON CNN HERE
Posted by Steve Douglass at 6:20 PM