News of BTWWTF?!?! Co-Blogger Shoshana Hebshi-Holt’s detainment goes viral with a little help from social media
By Aleza Freeman
“Silly me. I thought flying on 9/11 would be easy.” And so begins Shoshana Hebshi-Holt’s viral blog post from Sept. 12, 2011 — a blog post that has now been read around the world.
Shoshana Hebshi-Holt. Photo by the author.
A personable, peaceful 35-year-old with black kinky-curly hair and a dark complexion, Shoshana describes herself as the product of love between two warring peoples (a Saudi dad and a Jewish mom). She says she knew she could potentially be subject to additional searches or suspicion while flying, “because of the way that I look.”
She even recalls a conversation with her late father shortly after 9/11. He was nervous about being watched, because of his ethnicity.
But when fully armed law enforcement stormed Frontier Airlines Flight 623 on Sunday, September 11, 2011, “I never in a million years thought that I would be targeted.”
After the plane landed at Detroit Metro Airport — shadowed by F16s — gun-wielding officers boarded, stopped at her row, forcefully handcuffed her and her two seat mates (whom she did not know), took them to a holding cell for questioning — and “No one would tell me what was going on, when I asked.”
According to the Des Moines Register: “FBI officials said Hebshi and the two (Indian) men were removed from the plane as a precautionary measure based on reports of suspicious activity on the plane during the flight and heightened security measures during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The three individuals were strangers to each other, but sat in the same row on the plane … and at no time were the three individuals uncooperative with the flight crew.”
All three were released later that night. Shoshana took to her blog the next day from her Ohio home. She eloquently wrote of her ordeal — how she was stripped of her clothes and her liberties — in prolific detail.
Within hours her formerly modest blog, Stories From the Heartland, garnered thousands of comments and international media attention — all with a little help from social media.
“I posted the link straight to Facebook, and that’s how it got its momentum,” says Shoshana. “I didn’t even get around to tweeting it because people started tweeting before I could put it out there, so I just let it go.”
No one seems to know what their rights are these days because we have lost so many of them.
Shoshana’s Facebook friends were already on high alert before she posted her blog. A former journalist with a graduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, it was Shoshana’s instinct to report through social media what she saw on the airplane, particularly when she saw “gun-toting” law enforcement surrounding it.
As her tweets were simultaneously posted on Facebook, her friends grew a bit concerned. Then the posts stopped flat at “Majorly armed cops coming aboard.”
Several hours passed with no communication, and what started as a regular day for many of Shoshana’s Facebook friends turned a day of watching a national incident unravel.
“When Shoshana ‘left us hanging,’ I knew something was wrong,” says her former co-worker Cathleen Maclearie, adding that she thinks its ridiculous that someone would accuse Shoshana of suspicous activity.
“After reading her blog, and hearing all she want through, I was and am pissed off,” she says. “Pissed that my friend had to go through this and pissed that our country has given way to people’s unfounded fear.”
But Shoshana says she isn’t angry at the person who reported the “suspicious activity,” just frustrated by the country’s shifting priorities. As she’s discovered from the aftermath of posting her blog (and reading its more than 3,200 comments) a lot of people are “very OK” with what happened to her. They think that this kind of reaction to suspicious behavior is warranted because it ‘protects’ the masses.
“No one seems to know what their rights are these days because we have lost so many of them,” she says. “Are we living in a police state or approaching that status where everyone lives in fear?”
Since publishing her blog post, the mother of twin 6-year-old boys says her days have been long; late nights corresponding with people over various formats, doing interviews, writing about her experience for various publications, and trying to fully grasp the situation. She has spoken with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) but does not yet know what, if any, action will be taken.
Her story has been covered in the form of news articles and commentaries by the Associated Press, MSNBC, USA Today, Forbes, Washington Post, and Huffington Post — just to name a few. She was named TruthDigger of the Week. And her Twitter followers have grown from 70 to more than 800.
Shoshana believes her dad would have appreciated the dialogue her blog has sparked. “Maybe we can all learn something in the process,” she says.
“I can’t believe that I have drawn so much attention,” adds Shoshana. “I’m in my own little bubble of going about things. I still have kids to take care of, dinner to make, laundry to fold.”
That’s the power of the pen (or blog, as the case may be).