Aficionados of truly idiotic bungled terrorist attempts will surely recall Mlle. Hermis Moutardier, the flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, December 22, 2001. The truly heroic Miss Moutardier subdued the undeservedly famous Richard Reid, aka the Shoe Bomber, with her pitcher of cold water.
Miss Moutardier, assisted by fellow flight attendants and passengers, demonstrated courage, resourcefulness, and presence of mind in subduing Reid, who is serving a life sentence in prison, while concurrently serving history as the very model of an incompetent aspiring terrorist.
But what specifically makes Mlle. Moutardier heroic to me is her simple likeness in style, as I recall her account, to Jael, wife of Heber and slayer of Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army and enemy of Israel.
Jael’s heroism is recounted in Judges 4-5. Basically, Sisera is running away from a lost battle, and shows up at Jael’s door, asking for water. She gives him milk, and a festive bowl of tasty curds. He lies down for a nap. Jael takes up some tent pegs and a handy mallet, and nails Sisera’s temples to the tent floor. Note the happy ending: “And the land had rest for forty years” (Judges 5:31).
Mlle. Moutardier is a freedom fighter, one after the model of Jael, and I say, good for her. Flight attendants are already designated as part of the team that can save a plane in a crisis when the flight crew is incapacitated. Let’s hope the override controls, that everyone hopes will never be needed, will be in the secure possession of trusted crew, including flight attendants, and not locked up in the cockpit with some psycho killer narcissist.
Regardless of the abysmal probability of Reid’s potential success at lighting up his shoes, Miss Moutardier stands out as a hero to me, for initiating the subdual of an insanely hostile passenger with her ice-water pitcher. She used a symbol of hospitality to defend her home—the home-in-transit of 197 people. She came forward in the manner and spirit of Jael, whose hospitality led to the demise of a man who threatened her home and her nation. May God keep women like this coming.