Kwame James: Unknown Hero in the War on Terror

Ever wonder why you have to take off your shoes when you get on a plane?
Here is the story, and it is a good one:

17 years ago this week: A man named Richard Reid tried to murder 197 people on a flight from Miami to Paris by igniting a bomb he was hiding in the sole of his shoe.  He was an Islamic fundamentalist from London, working as an Al Qaeda operative.  F.B.I. bomb experts claim testified that this was a very sophisticated bomb that likely would have caused the plane to crash.

Most people have never heard of Kwame James.  That is too bad, as ,his name should be known.  He was born in Canada and raised in Trinidad.  Three months after 9/11, James was on board an airplane trying to get home for Christmas when he heard a flight attendant scream. He looked over to see why, and saw attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid trying to ignite the heel of his shoe.

James, who played basketball at the University of Evansville, rushed over. Other passengers were scrapping with the shoe bomber, but Reid was a big man at 6’4″. Reid was having success punching and even biting those who were trying to keep him from igniting the bomb. Kwame James was 6’8″ tall, and determined to defend the country he was growing to love.   James grabbed Reid’s pony tail and punched him repeatedly in the face. He and other passengers then used belts and phone cords to tie up Reid.  Two Doctors on board then injected Reid with sedatives.  James then sat on top of Reid while the plane was diverted for an emergency landing in Boston.

“He’s tied up head to toe and still he’s talking to me in this arrogant, chilling way,” James once said of  Reid. “I told him I had a lot of Muslim friends and we all get along. I said, ‘Were you really going to blow up this plane?’ And he just said, ‘You’ll see.'”

Richard Reid’s shoes
Photo Credit: New York Daily News

Kwame James and the other passengers stopped a terrorist attack that would have killed 197 people on board, and maybe more on the ground. Hardly anyone knows it because it was a victory rather than a defeat. If Reid had been successful, everyone would know the story.  The good guys won, so hardly anyone remembers.

By the way, Kwame James was not a citizen at the time, but did get his American Citizenship in 2010. He said:

“I became a citizen of one of the best countries in the world
and I am very happy,” he said. “All the things that people come here
for, that’s what I’m here for, the opportunity. You can come from
nothing and become something here, just through hard work.”

Kwame Brown after gaining legal U.S. Citizenship
Photo Credit: E.S.P.N.

I’ve lived around the world, and I know in certain parts you can work as hard as you want and never make it if you aren’t part of a certain class in society. In America, if you put your work in you can achieve your dream.

When Reid went to trial he shouted at the judge, ” I am at war with your country” and pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden. He was sentenced to life in prison.   Reid was detained for years in Guantanamo Bay, then he was moved to a “supermax” prison 90 miles south of Denver.  In 2006 The Telegraph Report detailed Reid’s daily experience at the prison.

“For 23 hours a day, Reid is locked down, confined to his cell. From computerised control booths, staff monitor the ranges using remote-controlled video cameras and motion sensors. Every half hour, day and night, he is checked through the windows in his cell doors and must stand by his bed at designated times, five times a day as the staff take a head-count.’’

Reed lives on what is commonly referred to as “Bomber’s row” alongside the Unabomber Ted Kaczykski, abortion clinic bomber Richard Rudolph, 9-11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, Boston marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev, and many other of America’s worst and most dangerous prisoners.
ADX Maximum security prison
Photo Credit: Getty images

In 2009, Reid went on a hunger strike and had to be rectally force fed.  In a 2015 interview, he expressed no remorse for his attempted murder of nearly 200 people.  Thanks to the heroism of the crew and passengers like Kwame Brown, those passengers live on while Richard Reid will lead a miserable existence until he dies in prison.  Beyond the people who would have died that day, imagine the terror that would have blanketed the country had Reid been successful.  Kwame James was one of the earliest heroes in the war on terror, and more people should know that.

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