On rainy night in November of 1971, a man named D.B. Cooper became a criminal and a folk hero. He bought a one-way ticket from Portland to Seattle on Northwest Orient Airlines. He sat in the last row and did what people did then, lighting a cigarette. He ordered a drink and gave the flight attendant a note.
The note said he had a bomb in his briefcase. He demanded $200,000 in $20 bills and two parachutes.
He gave the flight attendant a $20 of his own for the two-dollar bourbon and soda and told her to keep the change.
When the plane landed in Seattle, he ordered the passengers off. The plane refueled, he collected the money and the parachutes and told the pilot to take him to Mexico City.
When the plane, a 727, passed over southwest Washington, D.B. lowered the rear stairs, stepped outside and, with the money strapped to him, jumped into the rainy November night and onto the rough and dangerous terrain below.
Nine years later a kid found $5,800 of the money. But nobody ever found the man to which it was strapped.
D.B. Cooper, not his real name, became a myth, a latter day Robin Hood or Bonnie and Clyde. Because he came across as a regular guy, regular guys pulled for him.
Here's the bizarre part.
My mom, who lives in Minneapolis, has a sister in western Minnesota named Donna. Donna is married to Lyle Christiansen. Lyle is one of the most gracious people you could ever meet. He's also creative. When we were at his house, we'd play games he invented because they were better than store-bought games.
Lyle was watching "Unsolved Mysteries" one night and saw a sketch of D.B. (the FBI sketch is above) that was based on the account of the flight attendant who received the $18 tip. Lyle was flabbergasted. The man looked just like his late brother Ken.
Lyle did research and concluded his brother was D.B. There were many similarities, among them that D.B. knew airplanes and Ken was a former paratrooper, airplane mechanic and flight attendant. Ken died from cancer in 1994.
To make a long story shorter, Lyle got in touch with the FBI, which is skeptical. A private investigator who had done some work for Lyle apparently gave the story to New York Magazine, which ran an 11-page piece in its November issue about the Ken Christiansen/D.B. Cooper connection. The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a story as did the Morris (Minn.) Sun Tribune.
The publicity has been startling, and my mom says the family is not sure what to make of it. Do they believe Ken is D.B.? And do they want Ken to be D.B.?
My mom says they're torn. Is there room in a quiet Midwestern family for a famous folk hero/criminal?
I'm not going to tell you how I'd vote.
But I will tell you my new nicknames. One is Coop. The other is D.B.