Half-Arab, Half-Jewish Woman Detained on 9/11 Flight Says She Was Racially Profiled

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Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News / AP

Security checks out the Frontier Airlines plane on Sept. 11 at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport.

Shoshana Hebshi recounted her ordeal in a detailed blog post after being released from FBI custody in Detroit.

Reports surfaced on Monday that after a Frontier Airlines plane landed in Detroit, it was searched and three passengers detained by the FBI (and later released) for suspicious bathroom activity. Crew members had apparently gotten the sense that three passengers were visiting the bathroom too frequently and were even more worried when two of them — two men who were sitting next to Hebshi — went to the bathroom one right after the other. But Hebshi tells a different tale, saying that while her two seatmates did go to the restroom, she never even left her seat during the flight.

In her account, Hebshi explains that while the flight was held on the tarmac for more than 30 minutes, she called her husband to let him know she was stuck on the plane and even tweeted about the situation, telling her followers in successive tweets: “Stuck on a plane at Detroit airport…cops everywhere.” “A little concerned about this situation. Plane moved away from terminal surrounded by cops. Crew is mum. Passengers can’t get up.” “Cops in uniform and plainclothes in a huddle in rear of plane.”

(MORE: Bathroom Breaks Cause Security Scares on Two Sept. 11 Flights)

When she finally saw a staircase being moved toward the plane, Hebshi thought she and her fellow passengers would be allowed to go home. Her next tweet squashed that notion, however: “Majorly armed cops coming aboard.” When those heavily armed officers got on the plane, they instructed everyone to place their hands on the seats in front of them and lower their heads. Officers ran down the aisle to the row where Hebshi was sitting with two Indian men. Hebshi says she did not know either of them nor did they know each other. Nevertheless, all three were handcuffed, removed from the plane and put into police cars.

(MORE: Sept. 11 Memorial Misspells Victim’s Name)

Hebshi says she repeatedly asked several officers what was happening but was given no answers. When she was locked in a cell in the airport’s police department, she had to endure numerous questions about her background — “They asked about my education and wanted my address, Social Security, phone number, Facebook, Twitter, pretty much my whole life story” — and a strip search before she was even allowed to call her husband to tell him what was happening. One officer even asked her, even though she had spoken to several people, whether she spoke English.

“Something in me snapped at that question. Of course I spoke English I’m an American citizen, you a__hole! Well, I left the expletive out.”

She and her two seatmates were eventually released, but the ordeal left Hebshi shaken:

“I believe in national security, but I also believe in peace and justice. I believe in tolerance, acceptance and trying—as hard as it sometimes may be—not to judge a person by the color of their skin or the way they dress.”

Frances Romero is a writer-reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @frances_romero or on Tumblr. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page, on Twitter at @TIME and on TIME’s Tumblr.

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