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LI couple recounts flight with terror suspect aboard

Gagandeep Kakar, 35, and his wife, Shelly Kakar,

Gagandeep Kakar, 35, and his wife, Shelly Kakar, 32, of Albertson, were on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day when, officials said, suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up the aircraft. (Dec. 28, 2009) Photo Credit: James Carbone

Gagandeep and Shelly Kakar hadn't initially planned to be on that Christmas flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The Albertson couple were originally scheduled to fly home Dec. 10, but because Shelly Kakar, four months pregnant, wasn't feeling well, they delayed their return.

>> PHOTOS: Suspected terrorist attempts to blow up plane

Monday, just days after a man tried to detonate an explosive device as Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approached Detroit, the Kakars sat in their living room and recounted what it was like to be on the plane - just four rows ahead of suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The captain had announced the descent into Detroit. "Five seconds later, I heard a pop," said Shelly Kakar, 32. "A loud bang, pop."

The couple figured the noise came from a toy belonging to one of the many children on the plane. But then people began shouting.

They turned and saw flames reaching up to the overhead lights. "I thought the fire was going to make a hole in the floor," she said.

Flight attendants used pitchers of water and four fire extinguishers. Amid the chaos, Shelly Kakar said, she saw Abdulmutallab, a man she noticed earlier for being well-dressed.

"He had this defiant look on his face, like he wanted it to burn," Shelly Kakar said. "He was burning from the leg down . . . He had absolutely no pain on his face."

The Kakars shared their story Monday as TV cameras roamed their Searingtown Road home, asking them to pose with their boarding passes. Half-opened suitcases crowded a hallway.

They said they had been on vacation for 2 1/2 months, traveling in Amsterdam, China and India to celebrate the end of Shelly Kakar's dental residency. During the trip they found out they were expecting their first child.

"It was a great vacation" up until the harrowing flight, Gagandeep, known as Calvin, said. Their original itinerary called for returning directly to Kennedy, but the rebooking landed them on the flight to Detroit.

The experience has made him ponder the world his child will be born into. Growing up in Queens and living on Long Island for the past nine years, Calvin Kakar, 35, who runs a clothing company in Manhattan, described his childhood as innocent. "I grew up trusting people," he said. "I'm afraid that now we have to teach our own kid to look over his shoulder."

Shelly Kakar said she hasn't been able to sleep and has a fear of flying since returning home. That fateful flight has spurred changes in airline security, measures that the Kakars welcome. "Whatever it takes to make sure everyone is safe," Shelly Kakar said.

>> PHOTOS: Suspected terrorist attempts to blow up plane

>> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Christmas Day terror in the air

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