Their beautiful voices are preserved on the recording of our family and friends Christmas concert, which I made on December 21st. Exactly 7 months later, to the day − to the complete shock of everyone, including me – our former supposed friends/closet Islamic jihadists Paul and Nadia Rockwood pled guilty in federal court to domestic terrorism.
Actually, it was only Nadia and her mother Piroska (Piri) singing. Paul had dropped out of the choir earlier due to Ménière’s disease, a debilitating condition of the inner ear that’s sometimes combined with − or mistaken for − epilepsy. The doctors in Anchorage had told him that he wasn’t a good candidate for surgery, which had only a moderate chance of success anyway and would likely leave him deaf.
Since I have epilepsy, I felt Paul’s pain and wanted to get him an appointment with a true Ménière’s expert, to be sure there weren’t any other options with better prognoses.
Through my own neurologists and by calling in a couple of favors from former colleagues, who joked that I’d forgotten all about them until − sure enough − I needed something, I’d gotten a prize Ménière’s referral for Paul, plus the promise of an impossible-to-get appointment with a renowned physician who hadn’t taken any new patients in years. If this internationally known, widely published specialist couldn’t help Paul, at the end of the day they at least could feel sure they’d gone down every possible path. I’d then told Paul and Nadia about this third medical opinion and even organized some friends to host them for several days while they were in town for the evaluation.
What was I thinking?
Now I wonder whether Paul’s Ménière’s disease was really that debilitating, or if he even had it at all. I wonder if he was simply using his condition as an excuse to get sympathy, stay home from work, and communicate with his fellow Islamic terrorists about creative ways to kill other Americans.
Worse yet, he was a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Who knows how he might’ve been planning to use his scientific and procedural expertise in the name of Allah. I’m sure the 9/11 terrorists would’ve loved to add him to their team. Since he apparently converted to Islam in late 2001 and early 2002, perhaps 9/11 was part of his motivation to convert in the first place.
Thanks to the FBI, nothing tragic that we know of ever came of Paul and Nadia’s conversion to Islam and their subsequent jihadist activities in remote Alaska, pretty much the least likely jihad destination on earth.
The Rockwoods were planning to move back to the United Kingdom, Nadia’s home country, because ongoing Ménière’s treatment for Paul would be free under the National Health Service. (This was before health care reform.) Given the high cost of treatment for neurological conditions, I understood that plan completely. She also would have family support for her 4-year-old son and unborn child, in case Paul wasn’t able to go back to work right away, or at all. My guess now is that they planned to move to the UK primarily to make terrorism easier and extradition more difficult.
Yes, she’s pregnant. Imaging the life that baby will be born into, a father in federal prison for betraying his country and a mother on parole for being complicit in those crimes, not to mention an older brother who one hopes isn’t yet old enough for indoctrination, but could hardly help it, with parents like that.
Crazy thing was, everything about the Rockwoods screamed politically moderate, even lackadaisically observant. Many Friday nights they were socializing with my sister’s family and their circle of friends, not praying toward Mecca as far as anyone could tell. Guess we were wrong on all counts.
I remember running into Nadia at the King Salmon airport a couple of years ago. I was flying out after a visit. She was flying out, too (urgently), to Anchorage, sure she’d just had a miscarriage. A mutual friend had by chance run into her at the airport, too, and hearing she was going to try to go to Anchorage alone, made the instant decision to rearrange her plans and accompany Nadia to the doctor, to make sure she got there safely.
That’s the kind of town King Salmon is. People help each other. If you’re new, your neighbors help you get settled and feel at home. If you want it, you can have an instant circle of friends. If you urgently need something that someone else can provide, no matter if it’s inconvenient, they’ll pull out the stops to make it happen – and anyone else they call on in town to lend a hand is happy to do so, too.
Then how does my sister, interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News today, explain to my niece that her ballet teacher wishes her dead?
Members of my family have also flown with Nadia to Anchorage a time or two. I wonder if it was on one of those trips during which, unbeknownst to them, Nadia handed off that list of terrorist targets to her and Paul’s partners in crime, who I certainly hope the FBI has arrested by now, too.
Paul, Nadia, and their young son planned to arrive in London in early May. By coincidence, I was passing through London for a day on my way to Paris. Nadia and I exchanged email in April about planning to meet for an afternoon – a Sunday, ironically − and share a meal together. Also in April, as we now know, Paul gave Nadia their jihadist hit list to give to somebody else, who presumably lives in the Lower 48 and was geographically better positioned to act on it.
I was disappointed at the time, but I’m ever so grateful now, that our visit never materialized. Imagine them moving to London and inviting me over for lunch, all the while planning with their terrorist friends a repeat of the July 2005 attacks on the London transit system. The excuse she gave me was that their move was delayed due to their respective medical issues. I now know they were under FBI surveillance. Just over 2 weeks after I would’ve met them in London, they were questioned by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Nadia’s mother Piri Hawes, also a convert to Islam, lives near London and, as close as she and her daughter are, there’s no way on earth she didn’t know what was going on in that household. That’s where Nadia and her son (and the newborn) will live while Nadia serves out her 5-year probation, according to the British press. I certainly hope they’ll both remain under MI5’s watchful eye.
The three of them attended the Christmas Eve party at my sister’s family’s home. They brought an appetizer. They raved about my Swedish cabbage, citrus, and dill salad. They took some food home to Paul, whose ears supposedly couldn’t tolerate big groups of noisy people. Right. Maybe he just couldn’t trust himself to hide his hatred of Christmas Eve, and of Christmas in general.
This is what Islamic domestic terrorism is all about: duping innocent Americans, whose culture is to be open, kind, friendly, and welcoming to a fault, into real friendships (for us, at least), in order to establish themselves as “normal people” in normal communities and to operate under the radar until they’re ready to pull the trigger – literally, in Paul’s case – on even more innocent, open, kind, friendly, and welcoming Americans elsewhere.
The scary thing is that we know full well there are more people out there like the Rockwoods, living quietly in other big cities and small towns in the USA. They could be borrowing your fishing pole. They could be standing next to you in the choir. They could be babysitting your kids (or you could be babysitting theirs).
I’ve always been comfortable and open with Muslims, having always had friends and co-workers of the Islamic faith and from traveling and living in predominantly Muslim countries. However, as much as I’ll try not to be suspicious from now on, in my mind I’ll always harbor that little doubt: are these people closet Islamic terrorists, members of sleeper cells, who are just befriending me − using us − to blend in, meanwhile plotting the deaths of other people we love, including those serving in the US military?
Yes, to confirm peaceful, law-abiding Muslims’ worst fears: Nadia and Paul, and people like them, have indeed − once again − ruined everything for you.
I listened to my Christmas concert recording one last time. “One small child in a land of a thousand,” the song goes. “One small dream of the people tonight.” This is the song they sang with us on that stage last December, all the while hating with a passion everything the song, the holiday, and the other singers stood for.
“One small Savior of Light.”