Kids Corner


A Good Man
John McCain





It is as clear as yesterday that I remember the first and only time I met Senator John McCain. It was a couple of days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. I like, millions of travelers, was stranded once the FAA shut down all flights after the twin towers came down.

I had flown to the East Coast to drop my daughter off at Princeton. And before my return I decided to spend a few days with relatives in Baltimore. As luck would have it I was supposed to fly out on that fateful day, my flight leaving in the early afternoon for Phoenix from Baltimore International Airport.

Having had a late night I woke to the sound of my cell phone ringing. It was my wife from Phoenix asking me if I had the TV on and was watching the coverage on CNN. When she realized that she had woken me up from my sleep she told me - ‘you better turn on the TV to CNN; a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center’. Perplexed, I went to the living room, turned on the TV. As I turned it on, I saw the second plane crash into the second tower. At that instance I knew it was not an accident.

I stayed glued to the TV and watched the horror unfold and soon found out that all flights in the USA were grounded and I would not be able to fly out to Phoenix that day. After a couple of days it was announced that flights would resume partially. I was able to get a seat on the first flight out of BWI to Phoenix. I was told to arrive early at the airport and be prepared for long line ups and delays because of very stringent security check.

I was anxious to get back home so I arrived at the airport 4 hours before my flight time. The airport had a deserted look; there was hardly anybody at the airport. Once I checked in after an hour’s wait, security was a cinch as there were hardly any passengers and there were only a few flights scheduled that day.

I reached my gate and sat down in the waiting area. As time passed by, I realized somebody had sat in the seat next to me. I looked up and saw it was Senator John McCain. He was first to say ‘Hello’ and soon we were having a conversation about the Phoenix weather, and then PCDS - the school where my kids went to. Soon we touched upon the recent tragedy I blurted out that Pakistanis may be behind the attack as it mirrored the Kandahar hijacking. He smiled as I put forward this ridiculous theory. My embarrassment was cut short as boarding was announced.

As I got up to board the plane, I saw three persons move in to take up strategic positions to block my escape route. I instantly realized that they were law enforcement personnel, maybe even the FBI. One of them stopped me and as other the two converged, they started to question me.

Q: Where are you flying to?

Me: Phoenix.

Me Thinking: Duh- do you see any other gates open or other flights being announced? How stupid are you! I am in trouble now, I suppose because as a Sikh they think I look like a terrorist and they won’t let me get home. But I want to get home, so stay cool.

Q: Why are you going to Phoenix?

Me: I live there

Q: Why do you live in Phoenix?

I stumbled and had no answer for the absurdity of that question. After a few more questions they told me I could board the plane.

Unbeknownst to me, Senator McCain had stopped and was watching the whole episode. As I proceeded to board, Senator McCain waited for me and then put his hand on my left shoulder and said ”Thanks”.

I was puzzled.

As I sat alone on the flight, I realized what the “Thanks” was for. I have a wry sense of humor and it has gotten me on the wrong side of things a few times. Like when I told a close Jewish friend - ‘You don’t know what persecution is till you are a Sikh in America’.

A kinder, gentler man with the understanding of a giant I had not met. That was Senator McCain.


September 1, 2018

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John McCain

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