His Big Hero's Welcome

n w york post

BY John Doyle

He's officially an American hero.

The Trinidadian-born basketball player who helped stop shoe bomber Richard Reid from blowing up an American Airlines flight was finally sworn in as a US citizen after years of struggling to get proper paperwork.

"I feel great. Obviously, it has been a long time coming. I feel like it's a huge weight off my shoulders. I feel proud to be part of the greatest country in the planet," Kwame James told The Post after a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday in Atlanta, where he lives with his wife and two young children.

The 6-foot-8 James, 32, had been playing in France and was on his way home for Christmas when the 6-foot-4 Reid tried to ignite a bomb hidden in his sneakers aboard the Paris-to-Miami flight carrying 197 people in December 2001.

After a flight attendant asked James for help, he sprang into action and helped subdue the wild-eyed terrorist. James then sat on top of him until the flight safely landed in Boston.

For three hours, James held Reid down, with the greasy-haired Islamo-nut taunting him.

"What he did, instinctively jumping up and subduing Richard Reid, this is what citizenship is about," said James' immigration lawyer, Michael Wildes. "He instinctively did the right thing. He is a hero and a model citizen."

James, who played for the University of Evansville in Indiana and whose wife is American, said US prosecutors had originally promised to help him get legal documentation to live here but failed to follow through after Reid pleaded guilty.

Reid, a British citizen and member of al Qaeda, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

James was recently cut by an NBA developmental league team and was in danger of losing his temporary visa before he and Wildes appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and US Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Bronx/Queens) for help.

"Mr. James saved American lives because he responded without qualification when he was asked to help," Wildes said. "He did not ask who needed his help or why; he simply acted because the people behind him on that plane needed him."

"Now America and the INS are not leaving Kwame James behind," he said.

The incident resulted in wide-ranging changes to airport security, with passengers now required to remove their shoes and have them screened before boarding a plane.

Read More From: The New York Post

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