When you are selecting a book to take on your flight try and avoid a book that has a picture of a bomb on the cover. A recent story from Philadelphia starts with such a simple decision and ended with a passenger missing not one flight but two and being both banned from United airlines for life.
Neil Godfrey arrived at Philadelphia International Airport around 9:30 a.m. on Wed., Oct. 10. His brother’s girlfriend dropped him off with plenty of time to spare before his 11:40 a.m. United Airlines flight. Godfrey was on his way to Phoenix, where his parents live. From there, the family was planning to head out for a vacation at Disneyland.
It is fair to say that Godfrey — brother of City Paper webmaster Ryan Godfrey — doesn’t look unusual for a 22-year-old kid living in Center City.
His outfit that day was typical: black Dockers, a T-shirt with a logo for the now-defunct Phoenix Gazette newspaper and New Balance running shoes. He has a medium build, recently dyed jet-black hair and a quiet demeanor.
When Godfrey stepped up to the ticket counter, the United clerk informed him he had been selected for a random baggage search.
“No problem,” he replied, going through the usual motions of checking his bag and getting a boarding pass. Now toting nothing but a novel and the most recent copy of The Nation magazine, Godfrey hiked through the concourse toward his boarding gate.
As he passed through the metal detector, an airport security guard furrowed his brow at Godfrey’s reading selections as they disappeared through the conveyor belt.
On the cover of the book, Hayduke Lives! by Edward Abbey, is an illustration of a man’s hand holding several sticks of dynamite. The 1991 novel is about a radical environmentalist, George Washington Hayduke III, who blows up bridges, burns tractors and sabotages other projects he believes are destroying the beautiful Southwest landscape.
“For the first time, it occurred to me the book may be a problem,” Godfrey recalls.