Usama Bin Laden is Dead. Yippee... I Guess  

Posted by Brock Booher

Usama Bin Laden is dead. Yippee… I guess.

It is difficult to celebrate the death of another human being, but in his case, I can certainly understand the desire to give a little shout for joy, or at least relief. He was, after all, a mass murderer hell-bent on our demise, indeed the very destruction of our way of life.

I’m sure you remember where you were on 9/11. So do I. But I also remember just as vividly the moment I learned that I had helped train one of the nineteen hijackers of 9/11.

The Monday after 9/11 I was driving north on the 101 approaching the intersection of the 202. I was on my way to teach a group of Australian pilots in the Boeing 737 simulator. I was listening to the news. When the name Hani Honjour came over the radio in connection with the attacks, my blood ran cold. I picked up my cell phone and called Julie at Jet Tech, a flight training school.

“Is it true about Hani Honjour?” I asked.

“Where are you? You’re not driving are you?”

I let out a string of expletives as she tried to calm me down. It was true. I had helped train one of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, and my life would forever be connected to that tragedy in a bizarre connection of events.

Hani Honjour, born the fourth child of seven children, came to Tucson, Arizona, in October of 1991. His eldest brother Abdulraham helped him secure room and board. Between 1991 and 1998 he came to the United States to study on three separate occasions. On September 11th, he was at the controls of American Airlines Flight 77 when it slammed into the Pentagon.

I was devastated. Guilt burdened me as I thought about my involvement with such a horrible tragedy. I replayed my interaction with Hani over and over again in my mind searching for some clue to his intent. I pondered my actions, and considered plausible alternatives, but the past was hard as stone, and I could do nothing to change it.

I remember well the day he walked into my classroom. He was average build, and wore a baseball cap over his thinning hair. He sported a thin dark mustache that accented a sharp nose. He was quiet, and every time I looked at him he reminded of a mouse timidly waiting in the corner for a chance at the cheese.

I administered the pretest to the class. He failed it. I told him that he probably wouldn’t make it through the course because he wasn’t prepared. He explained to me, in broken English, that he was only monitoring my class. He would start his official training the next week.

I would like to say that my innate ability for sensing danger kicked in at that point, but it didn’t. Something gnawed at me. Something didn’t feel right, but I certainly wasn’t afraid of a mousy, average-built foreigner in jeans and a baseball cap. During the first break, I walked into the manager’s office and closed the door.

Peggy sat behind her desk full of schedules, invoices, and student files. She looked up and asked, “What’s up?"

“What’s up with this Hani guy?” I asked. “He’s never going to make it through the course."

We discussed the issue mostly from a proficiency standpoint. We both wondered how he had even qualified for a flying license since his English proficiency was in question. We talked around the issue. Both of us felt something was amiss, but we couldn’t put our finger on it. We chalked it up to our concerns over his lack of proficiency and ability. Since he was our student and our customer, we pushed those feelings aside and strategized on how to help him get through the program.

Peggy did commit to one important task. She promised to call the FAA and raise the flag about our inept student. Our discussion and her follow up were the only things that helped assuage my guilt when the truth about our suspicious customer finally hit the airways.

Hani Honjour never did graduate from the B-737 type-rating course at Jet Tech. Peggy, his various instructors, and all the staff bent over backwards to help him. I bought him lunch. My wife even gave him a ride to a nearby restaurant. Imagine this future inflictor of terror and horror riding down the street in a minivan with my bubbly wife at the wheel and my two small kids tagging along. Who knew that he was a deadly snake just waiting for his opportunity to strike?

Years ago when I was a kid, a pack of wild dogs infested the woods on the back of our farm in Kentucky. They killed some of our chickens. They threatened our cattle. It wasn’t safe for us to go outside. My Uncle showed up with a large-caliber hunting rifle. He told my older brother, probably only about twelve at the time, to grab his twenty-two and some ammunition. They were going to get rid of that menacing pack of wild dogs.

We normally think of dogs as man’s best friend – loyal, loving, protective. We don’t like the thought of killing them, but these dogs were different. From our house on the hill I watched as my brother and Uncle followed the fence line down the hill and took up a position behind some brush. The wild dogs were lounging under a tree next to the pond. The shooting started. Several dogs went down and the others started to disperse, but one dog, the largest of the group and probably the leader, started up the hill and doubled back as if he knew the source of the gunfire. I was terrified as I watched the big black dog round the brush pile and bear down on my brother and Uncle. At the last moment my Uncle turned and shot the dog. It didn’t die on the spot, but it left mortally wounded and would never threaten us again.

I lamented the death of those dogs. It was such a waste. I must have said as much, because my Uncle took the opportunity to teach me a bit of homespun wisdom. “Some things just need a killin’,” he said.

Years later, as I tried to make sense of my own connection to 9/11, his words rang true again.

Hani Honjour, and several more of the original 19 hijackers, tasted of the best this country had to offer and then summarily rejected it. They freely traveled our clean and efficient highway system. They dined in our varied restaurants, and shopped in our sprawling shopping centers. They enjoyed our hospitality and were treated with respect, even kindness. In Hani’s case, we bent over backwards to help him achieve what we thought was his dream – becoming a commercial pilot.

The 9/11 hijackers were not sheltered soldiers ignorant to the lies propagated to foment their hatred. They saw the web of those lies unravel before their eyes, and then with malice, picked up the threads of those lies and reweaved the web themselves.

The hatred that fuels the terrorists should be fought on all fronts. We should promote the principles of freedom that make our country great at home and abroad. We should extend a hand of kindness and generosity to our enemies. We must strive to better understand the plight of misguided people around the world. We must build bridges into enemy territory through sacrifice and selflessness.

However, we cannot forget that in spite of our good intentions and best efforts, some hatred is insurmountable and just needs “a killin’.” We must remain vigilant and prepared for packs of wild dogs hell-bent on our demise.

Usama Bin Laden is dead. Yippee.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 2, 2011 at Monday, May 02, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Good job Brock! I know this has been on your mind since it happened! MAybe now you can clear it out of your mind!

May 2, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Thank you for sharing. I'm surprised your story and perspective haven't been shared in a journal or media outlet, it's increadibly interesting.

May 2, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Thanks to Kory's tweet I read your post. Thanks for sharing this unique perspective, it was very interesting and insightful.

May 2, 2011 at 1:05 PM

I worked with your sister, Tahlee, for years and just think the world of her. She had posted a link to your blog. Thank you for sharing your incredibly unique experience and thoughts. You are a fantastic writer.

May 2, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Wow, amazing post, Brock.

May 2, 2011 at 5:07 PM

I agree with you Uncle some things just need a killing. As to the Taliban they were put under extensive brain washing to the same extent as, Hitler or worse.

May 2, 2011 at 5:16 PM

WOW! Thanks for sharing. Can just imagine how you felt. Evil is not so far away from us and paths can cross so unexpectedly. Interesting that from the first you sensed something wrong! Really good writing!

May 2, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Glad you were finally able to tell your part of "the rest of the story". I well remember the dog incident. Shooting them was something that needed doing. It was a bit of an adventure for me as a kid with a single shot 22 rifle.
Fortunately for us, when the lead dog came around behind us he announced his arrival with a growl. That little warning was enough to spell his demise and add healthy dose of danger to the adventure. It was a clear indication of his intent, unlike with those who attacked us on 9/11. Yes, some things just need a killin.

May 2, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Love it! thanks for sharing!

May 2, 2011 at 7:42 PM

Thank you so much for sharing. Very thoughtful.

May 2, 2011 at 7:48 PM

I love the points you made. I don't like that people are celebrating death, but it is better to kill one man then to let him live and kill as many as he pleases. Than you so much for sharing your 9/11 story. It gives so much insight.

May 2, 2011 at 9:03 PM

Wow, what a thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing.

May 2, 2011 at 10:36 PM

Wow. I had no idea that you and Britt had had this experience. Thanks for sharing.

May 3, 2011 at 8:11 AM

Fascinating! Thanks Brock, I had no idea you had this experience. You are a gifted writer.

May 3, 2011 at 12:09 PM
Kelley F.  

Hello Brock, Thank you so much for sharing your story. Very moving!

May 3, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Brock, your writing simply just gets better and better. Great story and perspective.

May 3, 2011 at 7:50 PM

Your grandchildren will enjoy reading this first-hand account of such memorable events. I certainly did. As someone else suggested, "it's good to hear the rest of the story".

May 4, 2011 at 11:13 AM

Appreciate your thoughts and perspective. The people of this country need to be reminded of all this country has to offer

September 12, 2014 at 9:45 AM

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