- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Franco Salmina had roomed with Nathaniel Heatwole for only a few weeks at Guilford College. They got along, but hadn’t talked much about politics or world events before they split for fall break.

When Mr. Salmina got back to campus, he was shocked to find that the first place he saw his roommate was in the news — charged with sneaking box cutters and other contraband aboard airplanes. “I thought it was a joke,” the 19-year-old freshman from Ticino, Switzerland, said yesterday.

Still, at a 2,000-student school with strong roots in the Quaker faith and a tradition of civil disobedience dating to the Civil War, Mr. Heatwole’s actions may have been surprising but not incomprehensible.

“He just wanted to show them that it was possible to bring dangerous things on an airplane,” Mr. Salmina said.

As Mr. Heatwole, 20, appeared yesterday before a judge in his home state of Maryland, only a few students on Guilford’s quiet, tree-lined campus acknowledged knowing him or anything about his social or political views.

“No one knew him very well,” Mr. Salmina said. “He was very quiet. He played on his computer and studied a lot. He was a model student.”

Sophomore Bryan Cahall was in the same physics class with Mr. Heatwole last year.

“I think he has a similar view of the Bush administration that everyone else does down here,” he said. “They’re buffoons.”

But Mr. Cahall never expected anything like this. “I think it was a prank played on a high level,” he said. “It was effective as such.”

According to an FBI affidavit obtained Monday by the Associated Press, Mr. Heatwole told agents he sent an e-mail to federal authorities saying he had placed box cutters and other illegal items aboard two Southwest Airlines flights as long ago as September.

While some Guilford students supported his objectives, others questioned his methods.

“I don’t know him, but I hate him,” said Ben Rothenberg, a junior from Potomac, Md.

“He has the right to express his views as we all do in America. But he created a lot of hysteria and anger, which is even worse because of September 11.”

While Mr. Heatwole is not a Quaker, he told the campus newspaper, the Guilfordian, in February that he shares many of the tenets of the religion, including a belief in pacifism.

Mr. Heatwole, a double major in political science and physics, refused to register for the draft when he turned 18 as required by law, according to the Guilfordian interview. Instead, he sent the Selective Service System a blank registration form and a letter explaining his opposition.

“I wanted to let them hear the voice of dissent,” he told the newspaper, “just in case they were listening.”

Randy Doss, vice president for enrollment and campus life, said, “We have a lot of bright and engaged students who know what is going on in the world. They are socially conscious.”

Some of those students voiced their support for Mr. Heatwole.

“He showed everybody that [air travel] is not safe and they should know about it,” said Ari Lawson, 17, a freshman from Raleigh, N.C.

“He was just trying to help,” she said. “[Federal authorities] should be charged with not taking it seriously.”

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