A fantastic new book about the 1970s skyjacking epidemic. The Sandman enters one more time. And the toilet that’s also a sink

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One of the reasons I love reading non-fiction so much is because it teaches me about things, and people, I didn’t know about.

I would bet less than one percent of Americans alive today have any idea who Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow were, but for a few months in 1972, they were as famous as Kanye and Jay-Z.

Holder, a disgruntled African-American Vietnam vet with mental health problems, and his girlfriend Kerkow, a beautiful hippie chick under Holder’s spell, pulled off an incredible hijacking of a Western Airlines plane in 1972, taking it all the way from San Diego to, eventually, Algeria.
And they got away with it.

This was in the midst of the American hijacking epidemic of the 1960s and 70s, something I bet you didn’t even know existed.
I only know it happened because I just finished Brendan Koerner’s thrilling new book about the time period, “The Skies Belong To Us.” It’s a gripping tale with so many twists and turns, and famous cameos (Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panthers and Joan Baez, to name just two), and an impossible-to-put down narrative.

Fact No. 1 that may blow your mind: Did you know that from 1968-72, there was an average of one skyjacking of U.S. airplanes per week?
Fact No. 2 that may blow your mind: Did you know that the airlines fought tooth and nail against further security measures?
Fact No. 3 that may blow your mind: Many, many of these hijackings were successful, but Holder and Kerkow’s was the boldest and the biggest.

It’s fascinating in hindsight to think about how easy air travel used to be; so much of what we endure now was unthinkable back then.
It’s also easy to say, in hindsight, how easy it was to take over planes. In the midst of all the other chaos of that era, it wasn’t hard at all to bring a weapon onto a 737, demand entry into the cockpit, and get flown whereever you want.

I won’t give away what happens to Holder and Kerkow, but Koerner uses exquisite detail (truly re-creating a day by day, minute-by-minute log at times) and writes very entertainingly about some of the period’s other crazy hijackers.

It’s a fairly quick read and a wonderful view into a part of American history that sure isn’t taught in schools.

It’s a perfect summer read.

**Next up, a very cool moment at Tuesday night’s Major League Baseball All-Star-Game, which I didn’t watch because, well, it’s an All-Star-Game and they’re meaningless.

But it was the last time the great Mariano Rivera would appear at one of these things, so the fans and the other players gave him this wonderful tribute…

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**Finally, time for another round of “Was the world really needing this invention?”

A designer from Latvia has come up with a product that absolutely no one was crying out for: A combination urinal/sink.

Kaspars Jursons’ new brainchild is a urinal with a built-in tap, and it automatically turns on when you stop peeing. So you can wash your hands immediately.

Because yeah, THAT’s the reason guys who don’t wash up after peeing offer as a defense: The sink was just too far away.

Good heavens, can we get any lazier as a people?

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3 responses to “A fantastic new book about the 1970s skyjacking epidemic. The Sandman enters one more time. And the toilet that’s also a sink

  1. dreadpirate82

    I’m gonna have to pick up that book. My grandpa was sitting next to Billy Gene Hurst on Braniff Flight 38, when Hurst hijacked it in 1972. Just one of his many legendary stories.

  2. The thing about urnials was talked about on wait wait don’t tell me. It was really funny.

  3. Actually, I’m a high school history teacher (private school) and I’m about to teach about the skyjacking epidemic, including Holder and Kerkow’s story.

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