Monday, November 06, 2006

Max’s Time Travels

Welcome to another episode of Max’s Time Travels. Today, boys and girls, we travel back in time to August 1974. Are you ready?

But let’s start in the present. This morning I was reading a story about a hidden camera investigation at Orlando International Airport. What the investigation found, surprise surprise, is that TSA-Fatherland Security workers are inefficient and don’t know how to do their jobs, and that Aviation Authority workers are blind morons.

I think we have all noticed unattended bags in airports. My reaction to an unattended bag is instant suspicion, which is obviously a result of having spent a lot of time in Israel. If I see a bag which appears to be unattended, I will first look around for the idiot who left it there – he is often easily recognised by the gormless look on his face. I will speak to him and admonish him and command that he stay with his bag.

If I cannot spot the bag’s owner, I will speak up and ask in a loud voice whose bag it is. If no one claims the bag, I will report it straight away to an airline or security worker.

In contrast, TSA and Aviation Authority workers paid no attention at all to bags left unattended at the airport in Orlando, including one left for an hour just outside the Aviation Authority Office.

But I am not going to write about how pathetic some airport workers are, with their imagined authority and overall uselessness. And I am not even going to write about Rep. John Mica, Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, whose reaction upon being told of the bag that sat by itself for one hour was, “It doesn’t bother me – did it explode? That doesn’t pose a risk.”

Because I promised you time travel, so here we go…

The same article explains why one might need to be concerned about unattended bags: “Bombs in several airports, including Los Angeles (1974), Frankfurt (1985), Seoul (1986) and Algiers (1992) took multiple lives and injured scores of people.” I read that line and did a double-take. Los Angeles? 1974? I never knew about that. So I did some research (this is the going back in time part).

It was easy to find what had happened. A bomb had been left in a coin-operated public locker in Terminal 2, between the Pan Am and Korean Airlines counters. It exploded on the morning of 6 August 1974 at 8.10 PDT.

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive, the bomb killed 4 people and injured “at least a score”. According to Wikipedia, 2 were killed and 17 injured. According to the NBC Evening News, 2 were killed and 39 injured (Vanderbilt University’s Television News Archive).

It took quite a bit longer to find out who had placed the bomb, and I finally found that on msnbc. It was the Alphabet Bomber, which was something that finally sounded familiar to me. The Alphabet Bomber, as he had been named by the media, was a Yugoslav immigrant named Muharem Kurbegovich, who called himself “Aliens of America”, although he acted alone. For details of his other activities, see the link above.

Kurbegovich was arrested on the 21st of August 1974.

I was 8 years old in 1974 and I was away at summer camp at the time, which would explain why I had never before known that the airport in my hometown had been bombed that August.

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