"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“An Act Of Terror On Flight 9525”: When Someone Kills Himself And 149 Others, It Is Not A Suicide

We don’t need to know the political or religious views of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Günter Lubitz to call his crashing of a crowded airliner into a mountainside an act of terrorism. And we don’t need any further evidence to recognize a cruel irony: Legitimate fear of potential terrorist attacks apparently made this tragedy possible.

Imagine the final moments of Flight 9525 as it hurtled toward oblivion. Passengers were screaming. Some, I am certain, must have been praying. According to French prosecutor Brice Robin, the pilot, who had stepped out of the cockpit for a moment, was pounding on the door, trying desperately to get back in.

But, according to Robin, Lubitz, 27, who had been regarded as a rising star at the airline, refused to open the door — and it was impossible for the pilot, identified by German media as Patrick S., to break it down. “The door is reinforced according to international standards,” Robin said Thursday, using the wrong verb tense. He meant “was” reinforced. The door is now in bits and pieces, along with the rest of the Airbus A320, scattered among the crevices of the French Alps.

In the post-9/11 era, the cockpit doors of airliners are made to be impregnable. This is to ensure that terrorists cannot force their way inside and seize the controls — a logical precaution that probably has saved many lives. Terrorists may still attempt to smuggle explosives aboard commercial aircraft, but they know that invading the cockpit and crashing the plane would be all but impossible.

The deterrent is effective, however, only if nobody can open a locked cockpit door under any circumstances — not the passengers, not the flight attendants, not even the captain. Some sort of hidden latch or override switch would defeat the purpose, since terrorists could learn the secret. So the Germanwings plane was safe from terrorists — until the trusted co-pilot, in Robin’s account, committed a grotesque act of terrorism.

Officials involved in the investigation have been rejecting the word I just used. “There is no reason to suspect a terrorist attack,” Robin said, echoing the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders. I disagree.

What they mean is that there is no known link to terrorists or any known group such as al-Qaeda. Indeed, no such connection was immediately apparent from the sketchy outlines of Lubitz’s life that began to emerge Thursday. He reportedly had dreams of becoming a pilot since he was a teenager and belonged to a flying club in his home town about an hour from Frankfurt. He started working for Germanwings, Lufthansa’s budget airline, in September 2013 and amassed 630 hours of flight experience. He was regarded as talented and full of promise.

Surely we will soon learn another side to this picture. Normal, well-adjusted young men do not commit terroristic acts of mass murder.

As Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, noted, “When someone kills himself and 149 others, . . . it is not a suicide.” If Lubitz wanted to kill himself in a plane crash, he could have gone to any small airport on his day off, rented a Cessna and flown it into the terrain of his choosing.

According to the prosecutor, Lubitz decided instead to make his exit by killing a jetliner full of travelers heading from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. There was a group of high school students. There were two singers who had just performed at Barcelona’s grand opera house. There were three American tourists.

Terrorism is often defined as violence committed for a political or religious purpose, and no one can say yet what the pilot had in mind. But no one does something like this without intending to make a statement. We may not yet know what it means — and I suppose it’s possible that we may never know. Murder of this kind, on this scale and in this chilling manner is terrorism.

It’s possible, I suppose, that Lubitz was profoundly delusional. But if this were the case, how could he have passed the airline’s annual medical exams? How could he have worked in such close quarters with fellow pilots, flight attendants and others, day after day, without anyone noticing behavior that suggested a problem?

It looks as if Lubitz wasn’t just trying to end his life because he was depressed. He apparently decided to end 149 other lives as well because he wanted to tell us something. Tragically, this is precisely the kind of thing that terrorists do.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 26, 2015

March 29, 2015 - Posted by | Andreas Gunter Lubitz, Flight 9525, Terrorism | , , , , , ,


  1. Except the actual terrorists do make the effort to tell us what they want to say – either by taking responsibility for an act, or leaving videos or statements, or picking targets that make clear the purpose of the attack. But just because Lubitz committed mass murder like terrorists do, doesn’t make him a terrorist – at least until we learn why he did what he did.


    Comment by List of X | March 29, 2015 | Reply

    • The new norm is no longer the broad definition of terrorism that we’ve become accustomed to. I’m sure the other 149 people on that aircraft felt pure terror when they realized what was happening. Suicide could have been accomplished in so many other different ways. We may never learn his reasoning or intent but we do know the results.


      Comment by raemd95 | March 29, 2015 | Reply

      • I’m sure the people on the airplane did feel pure terror, but the idea behind terrorism is to terrorize those who are left on order to achieve a certain bigger goal. Can you tell what Lubitz’ goal was? What exactly are were supposed to fear?
        It’s still a murder in the absence of the goal, but if we’re going to call Lubitz a terrorist be, we might as well extend the definition of terrorism to anyone who terrified their victims before killing them – serial killers, spouse murderers, and so on.


        Comment by List of X | March 29, 2015

      • I wouldn’t disagree. It’s not just the victim that’s terrorized. Murder, including mass murder, extends to families, friends and any number of unknown acquaintances. All of these people are terrorized for the rest of their lives because of the incredulous act of one or more individuals, no matter their reasons


        Comment by raemd95 | March 29, 2015

Share your comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: