GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, CUBA — When an attorney for the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks suddenly collapsed on a recent war court airplane shuttle, only one passenger was equipped to offer emergency care – a young man whose father was killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He turned first responder without hesitation.
“I didn’t really do anything super impressive, just obtained vitals and tried to figure out what was going on, and gave oxygen,” said Tufts University senior Robert Mathai, 21, who checked the man’s pulse, talked to him and tended to him for about an hour before landing at Andrews Air Force Base and handing him off to an ambulance crew on Feb. 14.
That’s what first responders do – as they did that dark day in New York City when Mathai’s dad, Joseph, a tech executive, died in the terror attacks among nearly 3,000 people, many of them first responders.
The attorney, Army Capt. Brian Nicholson, 33, is fine and back at work as part of the death-penalty defense team of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man who once boasted that he was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks “from A to Z.”
Still the extraordinary inflight rescue sprung from the sorrow of Sept. 11 illustrates the close proximity of the different players in the on-again, off-again war court proceedings: How in just one week people who start off as strangers become familiar during their journeys to the crude compound called Camp Justice.
It had already been a surreal war court session.
A hearing was mostly derailed by the discovery that a contract linguist assigned to translate for an accused conspirator had previously worked at a CIA black site. It ended with the judge refusing to let defense teams depose the man on how he had come to work on the team