CHRONICLES OF 9/11
‘He Was Looking At Me With Hatred,’
Alena Krug Remembers 18 Years Later
By JENNIFER HILL • Exclusive to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – When Alena Krug saw the pictures of the hijackers on the 6 o’clock news on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, she froze.
She recognized one of the men: They had been on the same flight out of Minneapolis just three days earlier. She remembered him because he had stared at her so intensely on the plane that it had unnerved her.
His name was Mohamed Atta.
“I was very late for the flight on that Saturday because I was at a volleyball tournament all day in the Twin Cities,” said Krug, who coached University of Wisconsin-Superior’s team at the time.
“I got on the plane and they shut the doors and the plane started moving as I was walking to my seat. And I noticed a gentleman staring at me. I thought, ‘He’s angry that I held up the plane. That’s understandable.’
“But he kept staring at me. I looked at back at him three separate times as I was putting my bag up and getting in my seat, and he had the same look each time – I was interrupting his time, messing up his plans.”
“I had never seen anything like that before,” she said. “He was looking at me with hatred, and when I saw his picture on the news, I understood why.”
Krug sat down, five rows in front of Atta and didn’t make eye contact with him after that. She got off the plane in West Palm Beach to make a connecting flight there and Atta stayed on the plane. She knew the flight was making additional stops for connecting flights and its final destination was Buffalo,, but she doesn’t know where Atta disembarked.
Krug said she had “never felt so terrified” after realizing she had been on the same flight with one of the hijackers just three days before 9/11. She sat on the news for two days, not knowing what to do. Then, on Thursday, Sept. 13, she called the FBI.
The FBI first interrogated her on the phone. Repeatedly, they asked, “Was he traveling alone? Was he carrying anything with him? Where was he seated, aisle, window, middle?”
Krug gave the FBI the same answers because she had paid close attention to him. He was alone. No one was sitting next to him. He wasn’t carrying anything. He wore a long-sleeved denim shirt with a white shirt under it.
She knew they were checking her credentials to make sure she was a trustworthy person.
“I was about to give them my phone number, and they said, ‘Oh, we have it already.’ They had already tapped my phone,” Krug said.
The FBI decided to interview Krug in person, and on Sept. 18, an agent drove up to Superior, Wisc. Krug met him in a conference room in her department chair’s office at the university.
“The agent came in, put his business card on the table, unholstered his gun, and then took out a tape recorder,” she said. “He asked me the same questions on the phone again, multiple times. Then, he took out photos of the hijackers and me to identify the one I saw on my flight.”
Krug looked through the black-and-white photos of each of the 10 hijackers, page by page.
“I had looked at him three times and paid close attention because of how he stared at me,” she said, “so I recognized his photo immediately.”
The agent had Krug circle Atta’s picture, then initial, sign, and date it. Shortly afterward, the agent left.
“The FBI did a great job,” Krug said. “They asked the questions because they were finding out that the hijackers would fly around the country to see how the passengers and flight attendants moved in the center of the plane and back and forth to the cockpit.”
“I don’t know if Atta was just doing a practice run that day or if he was going to hijack that flight and I would have been a casualty,” she said.
Reflecting on her experience, Krug said, “In the grand scheme of what 9/11 was, I had a small tie into it. I’ll never forget it.”