- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

Tickets for Atta

“Michael Tuohey ‘stared the devil in the eyes and didn’t recognize him.’

“Now he kicks himself for not having acted.

“Until recently, Tuohey worked the ticket counter at the airport in Portland, Maine. He’ll never forget one particular day of his 34 years of employment.

“t’s what happened at 5:43 a.m. on that he replays in his mind over and over.

“wo men wearing sport coats and ties approached his counter with just 17 minutes to spare before their flight to Boston.

“He thought the pair were unusual. First, they each held a $2,500 first-class, one-way ticket to Los Angeles (via Boston). ‘You don’t see many of those.’

“The second reason is not so easy to explain.

“‘It was just the look on the one man’s face, his eyes,’ Tuohey recently told me.

“‘He looked like a walking corpse. He looked so angry.’

“The man was Mohamed Atta.

“‘The one guy was looking at me. It sent a chill through me. Something in my stomach churned. And subconsciously, I said to myself, “If they don’t look like Arab terrorists, nothing does.”

“‘Then I gave myself a mental slap. In over 34 years, I had checked in thousands of Arab travelers, and I never thought this before. I said to myself, “That’s not nice to think. They are just two Arab businessmen.”’ And with that, Tuohey handed them their boarding passes.”

Michael Smerconish, writing on, “He looked terror in the eye and blinked,” Feb. 24 in the Philadelphia Daily News

Pop history

“One of the many things I love about pop history is the assumption that all people who lived during a certain era were fundamentally identical. For example, people who lived during the Great Depression either jumped out of a 12th-story window in October 1929 or spent the 1930s operating a roadside apple cart; those were the only career options. In the 1940s, every man went to war and every woman wore a kerchief on her head while operating a rivet gun.

“In the 1960s, everyone took LSD and listened to ‘Sgt. Pepper’s‘ while lying on the floor and worrying about the assassination of civil-rights leaders. In 1978, interesting people liked punk and lame people liked disco, and these were the only two musical genres that existed.

“Grunge rock was the only popular music of the 1990s, but this brought tragedy; everyone had a close friend who OD’d on heroin while attempting to start an ill-fated Internet company. This, it seems, was the 20th century.”

Chuck Klosterman, writing on “Previsionist History,” in the March issue of Gentleman’s Quarterly

Rock’s range

” Rock has always striven for range. He can do a bit that’s as raunchy as Pryor but he is also as spot-on about family as Cosby. Indeed, his recent material has increasingly focused on the rigors of marriage and the challenges of raising a daughter (specifically, the challenge of not raising a daughter who becomes a stripper). ‘I can play the Apollo, and I could play the Senate,’ Rock bragged to Charlie Rose last year. ‘In the same day. And have great shows at both.’ He’s probably right.”

John Swansburg, writing on “Chris Rock,” Feb. 24 in Slate at www.slate.com

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