I moved from my native Cork to New York when I was 18. Eleven years later, when I boarded TWA Flight 840 on 29 August 1969, I was a seasoned traveller who enjoyed flying.
The plane was headed for Tel Aviv, but my friend Cathy and I were going to Athens, the second last stop; two friends were joining the flight in Rome. Cathy and I were in first class with only two other passengers when we left Italy. We had noticed the woman who was sat directly behind us while we were on the coach to the plane at Leonardo da Vinci airport. She was very striking, young and glamorous. The other passenger, a man, was in the aisle seat of the front row on the opposite side of the plane. Not long after we took off, the woman moved to the aisle seat just in front of me, and struck up a conversation with the man. We were quite impressed, and thought she seemed sophisticated, chatting up a man she didn’t know.
Then, as one of the stewardesses, as they were called then, was bringing the captain his lunch, the woman shoved her aside and rushed into the cockpit, rapidly followed by the man. I knew immediately that we’d been hijacked. Cathy couldn’t believe it. The woman, who we later found out was Leila Khaled, announced that the plane had been taken on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and said that there was one among us who was responsible “for the killing of Palestinian men, women and children”. Cathy and I were moved to the back of the plane to seats near our friends. People were very shocked, but there was no panic. I imagine this was because the crew remained very professional, and most people hadn’t witnessed the hijack.
Everyone was looking around, wondering who the “one among us” was. It later emerged that the PFLP thought Yitzhak Rabin, then the Israeli ambassador to Washington, was on the flight. He wasn’t.
The flight was eerily quiet, just the background hum of the plane and at one point a small baby crying. After four hours or so, the cabin manager made an announcement, reassuring us that we had enough fuel. I hadn’t even thought about fuel, so that made me very anxious. The anxiety wasn’t alleviated by discovering that two small Israeli jets were flying on either side of our plane. I was so scared that my knees were knocking, but I honestly didn’t think I was going to die. I figured that the hijackers would put their own self-preservation first and make sure we landed safely. Not everyone felt the same. Cathy was terrified and the woman in front of me said goodbye to her husband, “in case we die”.
Finally, the crew told us we were making an emergency landing in Damascus and could take one small bag with us. I thought that if I died, it didn’t matter what I took, but if not, I’d need my passport, traveller’s cheques and makeup. The captain landed the plane smoothly and we were rapidly evacuated. The crew told us to run in the direction of the wind, but it was getting dark and there was no wind, only heat. Behind us, the hijackers threw grenades into the cockpit, destroying it and setting the plane alight.
The hijackers fired guns at the fuel tanks as we ran barefoot though a field of thorns. Amazingly, there wasn’t enough fuel left to detonate. The Syrian authorities sent buses to take us to the University of Damascus for interrogation. As I wasn’t American or Israeli, they weren’t too interested in me, and eventually I was reunited with Cathy and our friends.
Experience: I was out at sea when a tsunami struck
The following day, the Syrians gave us shoes and took us to see the Palestinian refugee camps. I hadn’t much love for Khaled, but seeing where a whole generation had grown up homeless made me view things in a different light: those camps were a breeding ground for revolutionaries, and understandably so. We finally got to Athens at 3am on Sunday morning, grateful to be alive and determined to make the most of our vacation. I still fly, but now insist on sitting near an emergency exit.
• As told to AM Scanlon
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Personal Narrative - Flying on the Wings of Love Essay
731 Words3 Pages
Flying on the Wings of Love
The seat rumbled in the window seat of the plane. I looked out across the wing at the tiny men running frantically around in their orange vests. I started thinking about where I was about to go and my palms started to sweat. "Oh no" I thought to myself as I felt my body tensing. I was getting nervous although I had no clue about how my life was about to change.
The plane began to move. We were taking off. With each minute, and each thought, I became more and more anxious. I looked out the window. The ground moved faster and faster, soon the gravel began to look like blurry streaks and suddenly the plane lifted. My mind cleared and I just watched... I looked down upon the tiny little…show more content…
A man sat there on the porch swing, watching the sun stream through the rows of vines. Who is this? Jason? Was this possibly my husband? "Me married?" I questioned with a bit of apprehension. I let out a deep sigh in which my daydream was interrupted.
I now looked to the right of me at a man wearing a gray suit; book in hand. I could tell he was asleep by the long-drawn wheezing coming from his nostrils. Bored by the happenings inside the plane, I looked back out the window to my left. While my mind had wandered off, the plane had risen above the clouds. I watched quietly and looked to see what shapes and mystical worlds I could make up in the passing fluffs of white. Before I knew it, I was awaken by a sharp dinging sound. As I was drawn away from my dreams of flight, I looked around to regain my composure. The dinging sound that woke me, came from the overhead, fasten seatbelt sign. "Were we landing?" I thought to myself. A nervous shock ran though my body as it tensed up. I looked out the window and found my answer.
It was almost as if the plane was going to crash right into the city. Nearing closer and closer to the neighborhoods below, the plane was approaching Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois. "Wow! What a city!" I said out loud and looked at the guy in the gray suit. He nodded in agreement as we both stared at the lights of Chicago.
The plane had hit the ground and all I could think was "I’m going to see