Marwan: The Autobiography of a 9/11 Terrorist Excerpt
Boston: September 11, 2001
We could not find a parking space when the Days Inn Saudis and I pulled in to Logan’s short term lot. We had hit heavy traffic coming in from Brookline along Boylston Street. It was already seven o’clock. The Saudis were building up steam.
Along the row ahead of us, I saw a Ford Explorer beginning to back out of a space. There was a little white Toyota standing by to pull into it. On its back bumper was a sticker: “LIFE IS SHORT. PRAY HARD.” I whipped my car past both of them, then threw it into reverse. I cut off the Toyota and backed into the space.
The Toyota driver jumped out, ready to pound on me. The Saudis got out of the car and surrounded him. One of the Saudis grabbed him by the throat. “You know what it says on your bumper?” I growled. “Better start now.” The Toyota man swallowed hard, then submissively turned around and slumped back to his car. I told the Saudis, as Toyota man drove off: “After the plane gets in the air, when I stand up, it begins.”
We ran through the parking lot, dragging our bags, rode up the elevator from Departures to Arrivals and walked unhurriedly outside to the curbside check-in stand. We were asked the stupid questions. It was easy. So was security.
It was almost 7:30. We would board at 7:45. The sky was bright blue, like yesterday. I sat in a row of leather chairs and watched CNN. Out in the rest of the world, nothing important was going on.
People used to dress to fly. It was a special occasion. They used to sit in comfortable seats, attended by beautiful women in uniforms by Dior, spread linen napkins on their laps and eat chateaubriand. Now they are all in sneakers and jeans, muscle shirts, halter tops with their tits hanging out, the droopy drawers the schvartzen thought up that all the white kids wear, fat old women in jump suits with their hair dyed a brassy blonde and cut like a football helmet, and these guys in shorts and T-shirts with their bellies full of beer. The flight attendants are grandmothers, or they’re gay. Flying isn’t special now. It’s like riding a bus.
“We’ll begin by boarding our first class passengers.” Two of the Saudis slowly stood, hoisted up their carry-ons and walked casually to the gate, taking places in the line several passengers back. When they started boarding business class, I did the same. I handed my boarding pass to a slightly disheveled girl. She tore off the end of it. “Have a nice flight!” she said.
The Saudis had already buckled in when I went past them down the aisle. Their eyes were downcast, and I could see their lips moving rhythmically. I could not hear the words, but I knew what they were saying, because I had spoken the same words at four o’clock in the morning: faraj, and the declaration of faith, the prayers before death.
I took my seat, 6C, behind them in business class. The man in the seat beside me looked to be in his thirties. He seemed like a laptop guy. He would not be a talker. We did not acknowledge each other as I sat down.
I pushed my carry-on under the seat and fastened my belt. The other two Saudis passed me. We avoided each others’ eyes. A man with a beach ball belly leaned into me, trying to stuff a shopping bag into the compartment above my head. It wouldn’t fit, and he wouldn’t quit; his penis was nudging my shoulder, and he didn’t apologize. A fury built up inside me; I could have ripped his heart out, if I had had a knife.
My cell phone rang. “Where are you?”
“I’m on the plane.”
“We are on the taxiway. The plane from Portland came in late. We almost missed the flight. We were running through the terminal, I don’t know what we looked like. I was sure they were going to stop us. I have to calm myself.”
Atta paused. I didn’t say anything. “Hello? Marwan? Are you there?”
“I don’t have anything to say.”
“Say your prayers.”
“Atta – tell me about your girlfriend. You said you had a girlfriend once. Tell me about her.”
“Not now, Marwan!”
“No? Then when?”
“…. She … she was a Palestinian girl. I met her in Aleppo. She worked in the Planning Bureau, that’s how we met. She was very beautiful, and very bright. She was a good Muslim – you know, took taxis instead of buses, to stay away from men. Really she could not afford it, but she did. We saw each other very much, almost every day, while I was in Aleppo. She could talk about things I cared about. She liked to kiss me. She called me a Pharoah once; I think that was good.”
“Did you love her?”
“Oh – who can say? She wanted too much freedom. I could not … you know … so … and then my father said: ‘A Palestinian? A refugee? This is very bad, Mohammad!’”
A stewardess bent over me and smiled. “You’ll have to shut that phone off now.”
“Okay,” I said, as politely as I could.