kwame janes article


In recent weeks, all Americans are being asked to take anti-terrorism measures to protect themselves from a potential terrorist attack.  But on national television last week, Councilman Michael Wildes was asking why America is turning its back on a young hero who successfully protected 197 American Airlines passengers from the “shoe-bomber” terrorist on December 22, 2001.

Wildes, isn’t just a local politician.  He is also a high profile immigration attorney.  And it is in that capacity that Wildes came to meet Kwame James, an aspiring NBA basketball player who is from the Caribbean and currently holds citizenship in Canada.   Wildes says that in Kwame James’ case that the old adage applies: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

The story started onboard that December 22, 2001 American Airlines Flight 63, when James awoke to the sounds of screaming and fighting ten rows behind him.   It was in that row that Richard Reid was attempting to light the explosives in his shoes on the flight over the Atlantic Ocean, from France to Miami. 

Had Reid succeeded, the American Airlines jet would have been ripped in two and all aboard would have perished.

It didn’t turn out that way, in no small part because of Kwame James.  The 24-year-old, 6-8, 250-pound forward ran when a flight attendant called for his help.  With the assistance of two other men, James pushed Reid between the seats as Reid shouted hostilely in Arabic, while continuing to struggle to complete his mission and blow up the plane.  In the end, over-powered by James, Reid failed. After subduing him, James and the others tied Reid up in seatbelts and anything they could find. 

James was then asked by the captain to stand guard over the terrorist for the three and a half hours it took for the American Airlines flight, escorted by two United States F-15 fighter jets, to land.  As James stood over Reid, he asked him: “Were you really going to blow up this plane?” Reid simply said: “You’ll see.”

A few weeks ago James was cut by his team and as a result the United States says it will not renew his 6 month visa, soon to expire.  James could marry his girlfriend and legally remain, but James says that is wrong.  He could take another job, but believes that is wrong too because he would leave any job he took to return to basketball as soon as possible.  James is acting with integrity, and again, Wildes says: “No good deed goes unpunished.” 

Wildes describes this as a national disgrace.  “Mr. James saved American lives because he responded without qualification when he was asked to help,” said Wildes.  “He did not ask who needed his help or why, he simply acted because the people behind him on that plane needed him.”

“Now America and the INS are leaving Kwame James behind, when Kwame James needs us,” argued Wildes.  “He isn’t asking for our support, or our financial assistance, or anything other than a chance stay here and continue to pursue his childhood dream.”

“Kwame James has done more to protect American citizens than many Americans do to protect their fellow citizens,” concluded Wildes. “We have 197 reasons to protect Kwame James.”

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