A tall, young, Canadian stepped off the bus, followed by a group of five men, all dressed in Muslim garb. The Canadian fellow came up to me and said that he was on his way to Revelstoke to take the post of 'Game Warden'.
I mentioned to him I had a cousin who was a game warden at a national park in the states and that he loved the job, because he got to hunt and fish to his heart's content. The man smiled in knowing agreement.
Then he asked me what I thought of American Foreign Policy. I wondered if he had been seated near the group of men in wearing Shimaghs and perhaps discussed it with them earlier.
I answered, "The poor of the Earth will surely uprise in the face of such American greed", not a popular notion with some in American politics.
At that moment, a young man, one of the group wearing Shimaghs, jumped in front of us and said, "We will! We will!". At the time I did not know the young man's name was Zaid Jarrah.
"You will what?", the tall Canadian man asked Zaid Jarrah.
"We will takeover the US!", the youngster boasted boldly. There were others from the bus standing around watching the young man. The way he was dancing around, everyone thought he was joking and laughed.
"Who will? Just you and your gang of merry men? How will you do that? You will need some help", said the tall, Canadian man and all those standing around listening, laughed.
"Oh we have all the help we need. We will highjack airliners and use them to fly into American office buildings", answered the young man in perfect English. "We will also use crop-dusters to spray poison over large American cities. And, we will poison their water".
"But you will kill yourselves too", I interjected.
"I have only one life to live for Allah", he answered.
The Canadian man and I discussed the possibilities of flying a plane into an office building and decided, if hit just right, with enough fuel, such a thing may actually weaken the steal structure of a building and bring it down. We were not engineering specialists, so we had no idea about what we were talking. There was a unanimous decision, from the crowd of listeners, that the young Muslim man meant the World Trade Center.
"How long have you been in the country?", asked the tall, Canadian man.
"We breathe our first Canadian air today", answered the young man. "We are here to learn to fly crop-dusters in Saskatchewan".
"Even if you get away with something like that", said the Canadian, "the Americans would just go bomb your country".
"The Americans have already bombed my country, last year. They bombed my village and killed my brothers", came the angry, defiant response, calmly. "If one bombs drops on a Muslim, you will hear it ten times louder over here".
"What country are you from?", I asked, having heard about bombings in Bosnia and Afghanistan the year before, the year Clinton was under quite a lot of heat himself.
"Afghanistan", he said.
"Yes I heard about that. I am very sorry to hear about your brothers, but why are you going to kill the people in the office buildings? They didn't give the orders to bomb your village", I defended, "some military official did".
"Who is the Commander and Chief of the US Army?", asked the young man.
"The President", I answered.
"And who votes for the president?" Then answered himself, "Americans. That's why they are going to die".
What he said made a kind of sense, but the whole idea of killing, not only one's self, but a building full of people sent a deep chill down my spine. I studied the young man defiantly dancing around in front of me and judging by the short growth of his beard, I guessed he was no more than 18 years old. I felt someone had brainwashed the young man.
He was with four other companions, who were standing, pacing or sitting near the one man squatting in the middle. They all had on foreign garb of eastern distinction and each wore a Shimagh, either on their heads or shoulders. The young man who spoke with me wore his Shimagh tied around his head, bandanna-style. They spoke a language that didn't strike me as Arabic, but something similar and seemed to address the man squatting in the middle as the man-in-charge. I wondered what kind of God would demand such a high price as the lives of, not only a building full of people, but the lives of this young man and his friends.
I felt I had to say something to bring the young man to his senses. He was close in age to my own son's and I couldn't help thinking that some poor mother, somewhere, was worried about this boy.
"Well, I'm American and I voted for Clinton, not because he promised to go bomb your country, but to keep the Republicans out", I stuck my neck out. The other people laughed at what I had said, but the five strangely dressed men did not.
The men all stopped their pacing and stared at me. The look in their eyes scared me to my bones. I knew they meant business at this point.
"You are an American?", asked the man squatting in the middle, the man-in-charge. His eyes had dark outlines around them which I judged to be natural coloring, though wondered if it was a tattoo. Each one of the five men were staring at me with an intensely disconcerting look in their eyes. They all had the look of "kill" on their faces. The men were not very old. I judged the oldest, the man with the dark eyes sitting in the middle (the man-in-charge), to be in his late thirties/early forties. I wondered about him. I didn't know it at the time, but I was staring into the eyes of Mohammed Atta.
"We are Mujahadeen. Are you not afraid?", asked the young man who was not dancing around anymore. The defiant glint was still in his eye, now more than ever.
"No. Why should I be afraid of you?", I defied back.
"Have you never heard of Al Qaida?", he asked.
"Al Ka-ee-da", I mimicked, "No Why should I be afraid of you?".
"We have made a 'fatwah' to kill Americans wherever in the world we find them". They were all still staring at me with grave intent in their eyes. It was making me very uncomfortable.
"A fat what?", I joked trying to lighten the mood. Everyone standing around laughed, yet none of the strange men were laughing.
"We have taken a vow to kill Americans anywhere in the world we find them", he repeated clearly. They were all still staring at me with maniacal hatred in their eyes.
"All aboard", called the driver at just the right moment. I was glad I was sitting in the seat by the door. I got myself comfortable. It was going to be a long way before the next stop. Feeling that the men could not possibly try to kill me on the bus, I crawled under my blanket, meditated, prayed for protection should the crazy men try anything and was soon asleep.
Somewhere, in the middle of the night, somewhere between Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and Qu'appelle, Saskcatchewan the driver woke me up shaking me and asking, "Miss? Are you all right? Are you all right?".
"What?", I mumbled half-dozy. "I'm just sleeping". I was too sleepy to wake up.
The driver said something about being attacked by some men, but I was so sleepy I just went back to sleep.
The next morning, at sunrise, I awoke very thirsty. I took a drink from my water bottle and noticed a bitter taste on my lips. There was also a powder on my face. I mentioned this to the driver.
"Oh! don't lick your lips and go wash your face when we get to the next stop! We will be there in about five minutes". Again he said something about those men last night, but my head was feeling woozy and it didn't sink in. I knew I had brushed my teeth before I went to sleep and washed my face. I couldn't figure out how the bitter taste got on my lips or where the powder had come from. I felt as if I had a hangover, but I had had no drink. I felt very confused.
It was 6:00 AM, August 4, 1999. I reckon we were entering Qu'appelle, Saskatchewan.
While washing my face in the 'Ladies' Room', a blond-haired lady who had been traveling on the same bus, came up to me. "You've got to be careful!", she said with a horrified look on her face. "Last night while you were asleep, those men tried to kill you! You were asleep and we all got off for a break. I came back to the bus early and saw what those men were doing and ran to get the driver. You are so lucky the driver came back and stopped them". If I had been sitting further back, no one might have noticed anything until it was too late.
Kill me! I had not been able to think very clearly and still couldn't. I felt as if I had a hangover; my head felt so woozy. The facts came together for me, a bit, when she said that. Those men with the Fatwah to kill Americans, had tried to kill me. I guessed then that those men had put something bitter-tasting over my mouth, which knocked me out and left the powder on my face when it dried. Had they tried to smother me in my sleep? Still I could not think very quickly. At least now I understood - those men had tried to kill me. I vaguely remembered those men, their plan and their Fatwah.
When I got back to the bus, I asked the driver about it. He said he had made a report about the incident, thrown the guys off the bus and that they were inside talking to the authorities at that moment. He asked if I wanted to get off and talk with them. No police officer came to the bus to question me.
I asked the driver what I would say and if would I have to go alone. I had not seen what happened. What would I tell them?
The driver said he had to go and that I would have go alone and that he had given "them" an incident report. I was confused and still having trouble grasping what I had just been told, let alone how to get all my stuff off the bus and when and where I would catch another bus, not to mention what I would say to the authorities. What about those men? What if the police let them go, because I had no witnesses to vouch for what had happened. I was terrified at the prospect of getting off the bus alone and being left there with them.
I didn't even know what had happened exactly; I had been unconscious. What would I say to the authorities? I wasn't even able to get it together enough to ask the park ranger, the woman or the driver for their names. The thought of being left alone in Saskatchewan with those men, frightened me. What if the authorities let them go, would they try to take my life, again? I have since come to the conclusion that the men used chloroform to knock me out and I was suffering the side-effects.
"You can go inside and talk to 'them'", informed the driver, looking agitated and like he wanted to just get going.
"What will I say? I do not know what happened", I said.
"The authorities are inside now talking with the men. I gave them a copy of the incident report", stated the driver holding an incident report on a metal clipboard. His answer created more questions in my mind. I did not feel safe just getting off the bus, no witnesses, and speaking to the police who may or may not let the men go. I was not sure if it was a safe thing to do to get off the bus.
"Give me a copy of the incident report", I demanded.
"I can do that at the next stop", replied the driver, so I stayed on the bus, too drugged to think straight too afraid to be left alone with those men.
The driver headed off to the next town where I was to get a copy of the incident report. Yet, a few miles out of town, the driver stopped the bus right in the middle of the highway, not even off to the side. An oncoming bus also stopped in the middle of the other side of the road. The two drivers quickly gathered their gear and switched buses.
I asked the driver, "Hey! Where are you going? What about the copy of the incident report? You said you would give it to me at the next stop."
He quipped, "Ask at the main terminal in Vancouver; they'll get you a copy" and off he went to the other bus. My head was buzzed on the effects of the chloroform for a day or two afterward, so all these quick maneuvers left me stunned even more. Weren't police supposed to talk with me? Come to the bus and ask for witnesses? Isn't that the way it is supposed to be? The police wouldn't just let these five foreigners who were thrown off the bus by a driver who caught them in the act of trying to suffocate another passenger, go would they? Wouldn't the driver have called the police? Maybe not.
I didn't remember to ask for his name or contact info. I didn't even remember what the young man had bragged he and his friends were planning to do, until later that day.
When I reached Chilliwack, I told my sister about their plans to fly airliners into office buildings and asked what she thought I ought to do, since I strongly felt the men were determined to carry out their planned attack on The States. I didn't think the Americans would let them get away with it and agreed with her that I should call the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).
I called the FBI office in Seattle from the phone number 604-795-3325 through my phone card number 613-241-4838 and told them about the men I had encountered on the bus ride. I told the FBI agent about the men, their fatwah, what they had done to me and what they claimed to have planned for the USA. The FBI agent answered me saying, "If you really think there is a real threat, then why don't you call the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police); you are in Canada after all?".
I went to the RCMP in Chilliwack and tried to make a report about the men who had tried to kill me. I wanted their help in finding these men and bringing them to justice for trying to kill me. The clerk at the counter said I had to go back to wherever I was when the incident occurred to make the report. I explained I had been knocked out with some kind of drug and was unconscious when the incident occurred, so I was unaware of where I was. I explained that the driver of the bus could be found and police could get the information as he had made a report. She did nothing about my report whatsoever and told me to leave.
So I tried to tell her about what the men had said they planned to do to Americans. I told her I felt strongly they were determined to carry out their plan and that a warning should be given to the Americans about these men, perhaps even the men could be found in Saskatchewan where they were learning to fly crop dusters.
The female clerk, smirked and told me I had better leave the office immediately or she would have me arrested. I tried to tell her the FBI had told me to contact the RCMP, but she interrupted me with a threat of arrest if I did not leave, immediately! So I left and never got any help for any of the crimes I just described.... or the ones that were to follow.
This amazingly true story all happened in August 1999. I am truly sorry my guardian angel wasn't big enough to protect everyone, but am thankful I survived the encounter.
To the bus driver who saved my life,
Thank you for saving my life, but I would still like a copy of that incident report.
To the blond haired woman who saw what the men were doing and got the bus driver, please accept my deepest gratitude for your bravery in saving my life; I'd like to reward you. It would be my pleasure to hear from you; you are my hero.