Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dutch 'Christmas bomb' hero makes films about terrorism

“Flying Dutchman” Jasper Schuringa hit headlines around the world on Christmas Day last year. He was the heroic passenger who tackled a would-be terrorist on a plane bound for Detroit. Now he makes films – about terrorism, for example.
A year ago today, Jasper Schuringa was on the way to visit his sister in Costa Rica via the US when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to bring down Flight 235. “I’m dead,” thought Mr Schuringa when he heard a bang like a firework and realised there was a fire on board. No one else was doing anything, so he leapt on Abdulmutallab, who’d set his seat on fire as he failed to set off the explosives strapped to his leg.
The Dutchman tried to put out the fire with his bare hands, then dragged the attacker from his seat and helped the crew frisk and handcuff him. The plane landed safely, and the 286 passengers and 11 crew lived to tell the tale.
Mr Schuringa finds it hard to explain why he acted so decisively. He wasn’t sitting near the Nigerian. The cabin crew did little to help matters. “A stewardess kept screaming at the terrorist, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’” he says, “but she didn’t do anything else.”


He admits he’s a man with a cool head in a crisis – his friends and family say so too. For example, he once witnessed a serious car crash. “I stayed very calm and went to help with a few other people. We immediately agreed who would do what, and that we shouldn’t let ourselves be shocked by what we found.”
This month Jasper Schuringa was awarded a silver medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund. Yet he doesn’t see himself as a hero, because heroes are people who give their lives for others. His main thought was to save his own life. But the president of the Carnegie Hero Fund doesn’t agree with Mr Schuringa’s definition. “It’s the people who don’t see it themselves,” he says.

Perhaps heroism runs in Jasper Schuringa’s family. His grandfather also won a medal. He had a rubber plantation in Jakarta that supplied rubber for aircraft tyres and gas masks during the Second World War.
Or perhaps it’s because he’s led an adventurous life since he was a child. His father worked for Dutch oil giant Shell on the island of Curacão, where Jasper was born, and later in Gabon and Oman. In Gabon the family lived in the middle of the jungle. Once a month, a small plane took the women into town to do the shopping. Mr Schuringa’s childhood pastimes were spotting elephants, fishing and enjoying the rainforest.

At university the expat’s son began studying physiotherapy, but after the first year he switched to his real love, film. After training in Miami and a few jobs in the Netherlands, he set up his own company, Go with the Flow productions.
He wants to make films that touch people. Films to make people think about contemporary issues. Terrorism, for example. And so the wheel has come full circle. The cosmopolitan Jasper Schuringa, on the way to the US – as he sees it a country with a one-sided view since 9/11 – foiled a terrorist attack. A year later he’s making a film about terrorism.

Day Opening - Deecember 26 (Second Christmas Day)

Christmas portrait