Five days after she returned to the safety of her home amid the orchards of western New Jersey, Trans World Airlines purser Ulrike (Uli) Derickson faced a new terror.
Again she was held hostage, after a fashion. A militant Jewish group threatened to rally at her house to protest allegations -- which persisted after they had been disproved -- that she had turned over to her plane's Shiite hijackers the passports of passengers with "Jewish-sounding names."
On June 21, local law enforcement officials and the FBI took Derickson, 39, her son, Matthew, 7, and her mother to stay with friends until "the specter" of the demonstration passed, Sussex County Prosecutor Richard E. Honig said.
Four days later, Mordechai Levy, head of the Manhattan-based Jewish Defense Organization, announced that the demonstration to teach Derickson "Jewish justice" was canceled because he had discovered that he, like others, had been misinformed. "I had conditioned my demonstration on if she had separated Jews, then she was an enemy of the Jewish people," Levy said in an interview. "As I said to her in a letter I sent through a friend of hers, 'You're not important to us anymore because you're not our enemy.' "
The threatened rally and the allegations that prompted it have wounded Derickson during the past 2 1/2 weeks, according to her husband and friends. Hailed as a heroine by former hostages, she has stayed in seclusion in the family's house , refusing all requests for interviews.
"What they did was find her guilty until proven innocent," Russell Derickson, a retired airline pilot, said this week as he politely turned away another reporter. "She does not want to talk to anyone just now, maybe not for a long time," he said.
The Dericksons are "very upset about this rumor . . . ," said Zina Rudzki, a longtime friend and neighbor. "It's unfortunate that such an ugly thing came out of such a lovely act of heroism." Returning hostages have said Derickson put herself between them and the hijackers, once halting the beating of Navy diver Clinton Suggs by saying, "Enough, enough."
"Uli's not experienced with the newspaper people -- there was such a barrage of questions, and before she could answer one they shouted out another question," said Rudzki, an Israeli. "She was exhausted, she had not eaten for three days, she had lost five pounds. I don't think it was fair that she had to answer questions right off the plane or to make out of that that she cooperated with the Shiites."
Derickson appeared at a June 16 news conference at Kennedy Airport, where she said the hijackers had ordered her to single out Jewish-sounding names from among the 145 passports she had collected. A reporter asked, "How many were there that you picked out with Jewish-sounding names?" Derickson replied, "Six or seven, I believe." TWA officials said Derickson did not hear the word "you" in the question. Later in the news conference, she was asked directly whether she had picked the names.
"No," she said. "That was done by the terrorists. They looked at the passports." That part of the exchange was not broadcast on television in Israel, where the furor over her role began.
On June 20, Israeli radio broadcast a report clarifying Derickson's role to a considerably smaller audience than that reached by television news, and the misimpression persisted.
"She's still upset about her name being smeared -- she has many friends in Israel, and she has Israeli friends here in Fredon, and that makes it all the more difficult," Rudzki said.
Friends describe German-born Derickson as a strong, upbeat woman whose favorite way to spend quiet time is watching wildlife from an observation post built in a tree on the family's isolated, six-acre lot on a wooded hillside.
During the two weeks a month when she is not traveling with TWA, Derickson often wakes up before dawn and perches quietly in the tree, watching birds, fox and deer through binoculars, and taking pictures, according to Rudzki.
Like Rudzki, others in this friendly community say they are outraged at Derickson's reception.
One man, requesting anonymity, compared it to the hostile treatment that often greeted returning Vietnam veterans. "I can't imagine anything psychologically worse than coming from the terror of the hijacking to the assumed safety of home and being confronted with the psychological horror of this garbage," he said.
In a resolution passed unanimously last Monday, the Fredon Township Council honored Derickson's heroism. Mayor Norma Cappola said the council is crafting an ordinance that would control demonstrations such as that threatened by the Jewish Defense Organization.
But mostly the townspeople are quietly respectful of Derickson, honoring her privacy. Her only public statement is the bright yellow bow -- for seven Americans held captive in Beirut since early last year -- on the mailbox at the end of her long gravel driveway.