Paging Carl Hiassen

It's a little surreal to be pondering this post on the day after the eighth anniversary of September 11, when two hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center towers, one hit the Pentagon, and some amazingly brave men and women brought down another hijacked plane in western Pennsylvania.

Hijackings don't always end in tragedy -- but they can be terrifying experiences, as this article on a hijacking in Mexico a few days ago shows. That being said, some of the articles were so vague on details and some of the details so peculiar, that the effect was sometimes hilarious.

The AFP (Agence France-Presse) story on the scary plane ride originally started by describing the hijacker as a " Protestant priest." AFP caught and corrected that faux pas by in later iterations -- kind of.

A Bolivian preacher who hijacked a Mexican plane saying he was on a divine mission used three juice cans to convince crew members he had a bomb, he later told reporters.

Jose Marc Flores Pereira, 44, a Bible-carrying evangelical preacher, singer and former drug addict, surrendered to authorities here Wednesday after hijacking the Aeromexico Boeing 737 on a flight from the tourist resort of Cancun to Mexico City.

All 104 people on board -- most of whom had no idea they had been taken hostage -- were safely evacuated as security forces swarmed Mexico's international airport within minutes of the plane landing.

But wait! A few paragraphs later, writer Jennifer Gonzales has this sentence: "The priest, brought out for questioning by the media, told reporters his actions were linked to Wednesday's date -- September 9, 2009 -- because the numbers 9/9/9 were the opposite of 6/6/6 the numbers associated with the AntiChrist."

Looks like the copy editor didn't get far down enough.

I wonder if there's a society for "evangelical" clergy hijackers. Do they have their own seminary? I have to admit I've never seen the "number of the beast" written out like this.

Even the AP story linked above, while it gets the pastor (not priest) detail right in the actual piece (yes, he apparently preaches in his "evangelical" congregation), described Jose Mar Flores as a priest. While totally its unPC to slot him into a category this way, one can understand why Fox describes Mr. Flores as a "religious fanatic." You can only imagine the look on the AP journo's face when he or she wrote these sentences:

Minutes later, after the fake time bomb had counted down to zero, masked police stormed the aircraft with guns drawn and grabbed Flores, along with several others they thought were working with him.

Police later said there was only one hijacker, and the other men were briefly detained because Flores had told a flight attendant he had three accomplices. He later told police his companions were "the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost".

Oy vey.

If you want a more detailed portrayal of Flores and his ministry, read this story. While I'm a little unclear about the use of the word "evangelical" here to describe the preacher because it's not spelled out, it sure sounds like Flores was evangelizing.

As more details came out, reporters were able to sharpen their articles. But man, this is one weird story. Writers who can't tell the difference between Protestants and Catholics (not to mention Orthodox, Anglicans and other denominations who have priests) make it even odder -- pushing it in the genre Latin Americans do so well, that of "magic realism."

Now there's another day to watch out for if you are a believer in omens - September 9.

Who knew?

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