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Air India Flight 182: The Children Left Behind  
User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 12 hours ago) and read 8096 times:

June 22, 1985. Canadi>n Airlines International agent Jeannie Adams checks in two pieces of luggage at Vancouver International Airport that will change the course of history.

Hours later, the first suitcase explodes inside the baggage terminal at the Tokyo's Narita airport while it was being transferred to an Air India flight. Two baggage handlers are killed.


June 23, 1985: At 7.13 (a.m.) GMT, exactly 55 minutes after the explosion at Narita, Air India Flight 182, a Boeing 747-237 aircraft, enroute from Toronto -Montreal-Mirabel to London Heathrow and Delhi, cruising at an altitude of 31,000 feet lost radar contact with air traffic controllers at Shanwick, Ireland. The second suitcase, a dark-sided Samsonite suitcase, explodes in the forward cargo hold of the aircraft. The flight disintegrated at altitude and the wreckage was scattered along a nine-mile swath of the ocean at 6,000 feet. The cockpit voice recorder showed there had been a loud bang aboard the aircraft. It also picked up the hissing sound of the fuselage opening up and horrific screams. The data recorders showed everything was normal on the aircraft until the explosion. The data recorder also showed a momentary control input by the pilot as he desperately tried to re-configure the aircraft. All 329 aboard were killed, including 60 children aged below 10. Also killed were 22 Americans, 160 Canadians and more than 100 Indian nationals along with others. Some passengers actually survive the 747's fall from 31,000 feet only to drown in the 6,700 foot deep frigid waters of the Atlantic.



From the CBC News website: The Bombing Of Air India Flight 182

June 6, 2001
RCMP formally arrest Inderjit Singh Reyat on seven new charges, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy in the Air India bombing, and the explosion at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

April 12, 2001
Justice Patrick Dohm sets a date of February 2, 2002, for the trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.

August 2001
Reyat still does not have a defence lawyer.

September 2001
David Martin reaches a deal with B.C.'s attorney general to represent Reyat. Martin says he will not be ready for the scheduled February 2, 2002, trial.

December 20, 2001
Judge postpones February trial to November 2002 to include Reyat's trial with Malik's and Bagri's.

February 18, 2002
Pre-trial motions for the Air India case begin in Vancouver.

May 1, 2002
Eight of the 10 lawyers making up Reyat's defence team quit after complications related to the hiring of Reyat's adult children.

May 8, 2002
David Gibbons appears in court representing Reyat, and confirms he will be the lead lawyer for Reyat's defence team.

May 10, 2002
B.C.'s Supreme Court postpones the trial from November 2002 to March 2003, giving Reyat's defence team time to replace its outgoing members and bring the new team up to speed.

June 2002
B.C.'s law society investigates David Martin's conduct. Reyat's children were working for the defence team when Martin headed it.

January 2003
Recruitment for the jury begins. Potential jurors are told that court proceedings could take anywhere from two to three years.

February 10, 2003
Then on February 10, 2003, in a dramatic turn of events, Reyat pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and a charge of aiding in the construction of a bomb. All other charges against him were stayed and he was sentenced to five years in jail for his role. He had been charged with the murder of the 329 people. His guilty plea raised speculation that he would testify against the other two.

March 31, 2003
Trial slated to begin....


Five years. Five years in prison. All other charges against him stayed.
Aided in the construction of a bomb. Where in hell is the bloody justice in
all of this? How could the Canadian judicial system display such negligence?
How do you begin to tell the families of the 329 victims their loved ones lives
were valued at a 5 year prison sentence? This judgement is a slap in the face for the victims of Air India Flight 182, and their families, the ones left behind who must live this nightmare every day.

Who will speak for them in the name of justice? Or perhaps, we should let some of them speak for themselves, and share their memories and pain, as the following article from the Globe and Mail illustrates all to well.



"The Ones Left Behind: Children Of Air India"
From The Globe And Mail. Saturday, February 15th, 2003.

What does it mean to lose a parent in the worst act of terror in Canadian history? Five people who had a mother or father aboard doomed Flight 182 share their stories

By JAN WONG, ROBERT MATAS, ERIN ANDERSSEN AND INGRID PERITZ
Saturday, February 15, 2003 - Page F6


TORONTO, VANCOUVER, OTTAWA, MONTREAL -- 'It can never be made better"


NATASHA MADON
Vancouver
Lost her father at 4

Natasha Madon was attending a birthday party in Bombay when she learned the airplane that was to reunite her father with his vacationing family had fallen into the ocean.

It was not an accident, she was told. Someone had put something on the plane and it had exploded. Almost five years old, she didn't understand what they were talking about.

"Maybe he just couldn't find us in Bombay," she now remembers thinking. "I had the feeling that, when I go home, he will be there."

Sam Madon had been on his way from Vancouver to join Natasha, her mother Perviz and eight-year-old brother Eddie, who had gone ahead a month earlier to visit family members. The Madons had emigrated in the late 1960s, and were bringing Eddie back to Bombay for his navjote,the coming-of-age ceremony of their Zoroastrian faith.

When news of the tragedy came, Perviz Madon was already on the way to the airport to pick up her husband. "I remember jumping into the back of a cab and not understanding what was going on at all," her daughter says. "I was sitting there, with Eddie, quite confused."

Her memories of what happened afterward are blurry. Her mother left a few days later for Ireland to recover the body while she stayed with an aunt. A few weeks later, there a funeral service, a cremation and then the flight home to Vancouver, where her father was a professor at the Pacific Marine Training Institute, which merged with the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 1994 (a picture of him still hangs on a wall there).

Now, at 22, the petite Ms. Madon has an easy smile and an optimistic outlook. But tears well up when she talks about life without her father.

She feels cheated. She was too young, she has too few memories. She can recall going to the park with him but can't remember what his voice sounded like. For more, she must rely on others. "People describe my dad as a very loving person, with a great sense of humour and a great love of life. He was well-liked, well-respected.

She constantly wishes he would come back. "I think of him every day. Sometimes I'm just sitting somewhere and I think of him. Or I see a picture."

Losing him cost the family so much. She cannot remember a Father's Day with him. He was not there for her dance recitals or her high-school graduation. He will not be there for her wedding or when her children are born.

"It can never be made better. Nothing can ever fix it."

And yet, she feels lucky. "Despite what we went through, we managed to have a somewhat normal and happy life. My mom has ensured that. We are a very close family."

And they speak often of the disaster. "We deal with our emotions openly in this family, especially with this."

The Madons did not get together with other Air-India families, and for many years thought they were the only ones in the Vancouver area. But they had many close friends who made sure they were well-loved and cared for.

And most of all, Ms. Madon had dance. "It's, like, my first love."

She says she abandons herself to movement. "I don't think about anything when I dance. My mind is blank. That's the thing about dance, you just enjoy it."

Until tendinitis in both knees halted her career, she danced as much as four hours a day, six days a week. She danced tap, ballet and jazz, travelling to Boston, Philadelphia and Hawaii for training.

She competed and won trophies. But she could never escape June 23, 1985. Another anniversary, another headline, another court date.

As she got older, she asked Eddie about what happened. She started to look into the political movements allegedly involved in putting a bomb on the plane, the reasons behind their terrorism and why they felt they had to do it.

She is almost apologetic about her search for an explanation. "It won't help any, to understand the cause behind it. I just need to know where it comes from."

Although still striving to piece the story together, she concedes that "it will never fully make sense to me."

She has found some pieces of the puzzle at the B.C. Supreme Court. She braces herself before walking in and seeing those accused of killing her father. But she feels she must. "We waited so long for this. It is important to be there," she says.

She grew up expecting to become a lawyer. Her mother often joked that her father predicted that because she liked to talk so much. However, she now expects to complete an undergraduate degree this spring in criminology and wants to do postgraduate work in the field.

"Some suggest it is hard for a victim of crime to look objectively to other offenders, but my experience has helped me gain some understanding," she says, adding that she's not the only child of an Air-India victim to go into crime fighting.

She says she is not looking to the court for revenge. "I want those who are responsible to be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

"But I realize, no matter what happens, it's not going to change the way I feel. My life will be the same, regardless. Nothing we can do to them would make it any better for me."
-- Robert Matas

'I've been angry all my life'



SUSHEEL GUPTA
Ottawa
Lost his mother at 12

Susheel Gupta wishes that his final memory of his mother was seeing her off at the Toronto airport, her long black hair newly permed to match his own curls, her face bright at the thought of visiting her family in India for the first time in years, her last motherly gesture delivered in a hug and gentle warning to "be good" for his dad.

He has so few memories as it is; he was only 12 on that Saturday afternoon in 1985, a "brat" by his own account, with a paper route and knack for mouthing off at his teachers. He didn't know he would need to remember. Death was not something he understood, let alone death delivered by design.

But he learned quickly. Because when he thinks of his mother, which is often, the most vivid image is the one he wishes he could rub out: standing beside his father, Bal Gupta, in a room in Cork, Ireland, searching for her grey face in the rows of head shots posted on the wall.

His father, he remembers, knew some others -- an entire family that was blown out the sky, friends they hadn't even known were making the trip.

There, among more than 100 lost faces, they found Ramwati Gupta, and were eventually led into another room, where her body lay on a hospital slab, as if sleeping, waiting for someone who loved her to name her and take her home.

Looking back 18 years later, her son is glad that his father was not alone, but he has a hard time recalling his mother without placing her on that table. "I search for other memories, but I don't have a lot. That kills me every day."

He hopes that she would be proud of him today, a 30-year-old federal prosecutor working cyber-crime cases and advising the government on computer offences. He is there, in large part, because what happened to her made a little boy think seriously about justice and evil and what he intended to do about it.

"I think," he says, "I've been angry all my life," a factor he believes drove him to excel, fast-tracking through high school and then university. "I understood how shitty the world could be for some people." Now, he volunteers with the local school board and the police department, teaching kids about Internet safety.

Everything changed for him at 6:30 the morning after his mother left. His father awoke to a call from a friend who had set his alarm clock thinking it was Monday and heard an early radio report. The elder Mr. Gupta awoke Susheel and his 18-year-old brother, Suneel, and told them that an Air-India plane was missing. There was no Internet to track news, so he started to phone the local media.

Friends began to arrive, and Susheel went out to deliver his newspapers. At the end of the route, not wanting to face the crowd at home, he sat on the edge of a creek that ran near his neighbourhood, and cried for his mother. Two days later, he boarded a plane for Ireland with his father.

It was not until he was in university that he began to study seriously what happened to the plane and the police work that followed. He has read the books, and his father collects the news clippings. "I don't know how anyone can avoid it," he says.

Of the investigation, he says, "I don't think it was the best that's ever been done," and he wonders whether a warning about the bombing was ignored.

As for Inderjit Singh Reyat's five-year sentence for manslaughter, "I don't understand the math," he says. "I only hope there's a lot more information that we're not privy to."

He is still debating whether to ask for a transfer to Vancouver, so he can watch the trial of the two remaining accused firsthand.

He finds it hard to describe what he's lost by not having his mother in his teenaged years. His father, an engineer and physicist, assumed both roles, cooking the meals, caring for the house and setting strict rules for his sons.

If he is confident today, Susheel Gupta says, it's because "I learned to rely on myself a lot more."

He wishes only that he knew more about his mother; growing up, he worried about his father's feelings too much to ask many questions. He has her passport picture, enlarged and framed, in his bedroom. And every year, on the anniversary of the crash, he takes the day off, and if he can, he goes home to attend the memorial service in Toronto. On his mother's birthday, his family has a cake and lights a candle in her honour.

"I know that some day, when I have kids, I will miss her a lot. That was something she really would have loved."
-- Erin Anderssen

'You don't get to say goodbye'



PREETI BERAR
Burlington, Ont.
Lost her father at 3

The baby wanted her bottle. It was dawn, on June 23, 1985. Oddly, her aunt and uncle were at the door, and everyone was crying. Preeti, 3, just wanted her bottle. "Just a minute," her mother whispered.

Soon, all kinds of relatives began to arrive. But it wasn't the normal family gathering with great food and her father playing the violin, piano and guitar. Everyone looked shocked. One aunt was wailing. Something about a plane, the sea and her father.

An uncle whisked away Preeti and her sister, Mona, 10. That evening, he announced that they would sleep at his house. Mona silently acquiesced, but Ms. Berar remembers feeling frightened. She insisted on going home, where one of her mother's friends tried to cheer her up, joking and pinching the little girl's fat cheeks until she had a temper tantrum.

"I can't remember when I realized what it meant," says Ms. Berar, now 21 and statuesque with a chestnut mane and her father's expressive eyes, fringed with impossibly long lashes.

Her memories of him are episodic and painfully scant. Once, he turned off the ignition and let her sit in his lap and pretend-steer the car. Once, he let her help to wash it. She remembers splashing with him in a round vinyl pool. "He was a hairy man," she says with a tiny smile.

Mainly, the flashbacks are built around a void. At her Grade 8 graduation party, when all the girls were asked to dance with their fathers, "I was the one sitting in the corner." At her graduation from Sheridan College, he wasn't there to see her glowing, in cap and gown, with an armful of rose.

Jogeshwar Berar was 45 when he boarded Flight 182. He missed his oldest daughter, Reena, 14, who had been sent back to Punjab two years earlier to live with her grandparents and go to high school. Everyone knew he was going to see Reena, except Reena. He wanted to surprise her.

Ms. Berar remembers the first week after her father died. To purify their Burlington home, a Sikh priest came daily to pray, clad in a long white shirt, white trousers and a white turban. "I thought he was God. I was scared of him. I thought, 'I can't act bad in front of him.' "

She tried hard to be good. But the little girl, who loved to cuddle in her daddy's lap while he played the mouth organ, lost her impish smile. And when her grief-stricken mother put her in daycare, she fell apart. "I used to yell every time she dropped me off: 'You're leaving me like my father left me.' "

Then she would cry for 2½ hours. "The kids hated me." After several months, her mother let her stay home.

A strong swimmer, Mr. Berar wanted his girls to swim as well. He signed up Preeti for waterbaby lessons at the municipal pool that summer. When the time came, she refused to get in the water.

But kindergarten wasn't optional. She cried every day. She drew weird pictures, in white and royal blue, the colours of the foaming Celtic Sea that had claimed her father's body, and never gave it back. The title she gave her drawings: Torture.

Other children avoided her. When she finally stopped crying at school, she still cried herself to sleep every night, straight through elementary school. She was never invited to birthday parties and had no friends until Grade 11. She blames herself.

"I used to be very mean. I would rather say something mean to you than something nice. I just wanted attention, I guess."

Her father had owned a ceramic-mould factory in Punjab when his parents arranged for him to marry a beautiful young woman named Sukhwinder. They had Reena, then emigrated to Canada in the early 1970s. He opened another mould factory in Burlington, and sponsored his two brothers to join him. He also sponsored his parents. They were admitted to Canada two years after his death.

He never wanted his wife to work outside the home. After his death, she became a silent partner in the factory, but money was tight. At 39, Sukhwinder found menial jobs (lunchroom supervisor, janitor) at school that didn't take her from her daughters. On weekends, Reena watched Preeti, and their proud, reserved mother worked on a mushroom farm.

The three girls reacted differently to their father's death. While Preeti was prickly, she says Reena felt guilty. Mona, once talkative and bubbly, grew silent and introverted. They all tried to help their mother. Mona and Reena learned to cook. Preeti took over mowing the lawn and shovelling the snow. They never asked to go to school dances. "We just assumed it was a 'no.' Even going to the movies was an issue."

Ms. Berar still lives at home, and works as an aesthetician and makeup artist while studying for a certificate in reflexology. She still has the last present her father gave her, a Sesame Street garage for her third birthday.

This week, she sat in her living room, surrounded by ceramic figurines from her father's factory, and considered the man who bought the parts for the bomb that killed him.

"The person who did it was a Sikh. We're Sikhs as well," she says slowly. His sentence, a plea bargain that works out to five days for each death, has brought only more pain. "You don't get a sense of closure. You don't know what happened on the plane. You don't get to say goodbye."

She has never learned to swim. A few years ago, she did the Canadian thing and vacationed in Florida. Naturally, she went to the beach. "I walked into the ocean and I walked right out," she says. "I just couldn't do it."
-- Jan Wong
'The last thing he told me
was take care of Mom'



ROB ALEXANDER
Hamilton
Lost his father at 15

The phone call woke him. Then he heard his mother scream. Rob Alexander jumped out of bed and ran into her room.

"She said, 'The plane went down.' "

The first days passed in a haze of tears and agonizing uncertainty. By week's end, the news was final: no survivors. Bodies and body parts began to wash up, but not that of Dr. Mathew Alexander, a surgeon and chief of staff at West Haldimand General Hospital in Hagersville, Ont.

Mr. Alexander remembers that it had been raining the day his father left for Pearson International Airport. His mother didn't feel confident about driving him. At 15, Rob didn't have his licence, so his father took an airport van from Hamilton.

"The last thing he told me was take care of Mom."

He did his best, and looked out for his sister, Tania, too. She was 11, and had been closest to their dad. Then there was little brother, Jamie, 9, who had trouble understanding what was happening.

"It kind of makes you grow up fairly quickly. I was the oldest son," says Mr. Alexander, now 32 and employed by a Hamilton insurance company.

The Alexanders were Christians from Kerala State in south India. They had come to Canada when Rob was one, and Dr. Alexander, a cardiac surgeon, requalified at McMaster University.

In 1985, he was 40. He and his wife, Esmie, had two more children. He juggled two practices. They paid off their mortgage. Then came bad news.

His widowed mother was ill back in India. Esmie booked him on Air France, but he feared his mother wouldn't make it and was delighted when a friend managed to get him on an earlier flight, Air-India 182.

Afterward, Mr. Alexander's maternal grandfather and uncle flew to Ireland, hoping to identify the body. It wasn't found. The family held a memorial service anyway.

That summer, Dr. Alexander had arranged for Rob, a six-footer, to attend two basketball camps. He skipped one, but his mother wanted him to go to the other. He did as she asked.

In the fall, he resumed classes at Hillfield Strathallan College, a private school in Hamilton. Mrs. Alexander, then 39, was determined to keep all three children there. It was the only thing she knew for sure her husband would have wanted. The school gave her a break on one tuition. She paid for the other two by selling her husband's two practices, collecting his life insurance, cashing in some investments and borrowing where she could.

Five months later, the RCMP called. Dr. Alexander's body had been found in some wreckage. He was still strapped to the seat, his passport in his pocket. The family arranged a funeral, the children's schoolmates and teachers came again, and all the relatives arrived from Edmonton and Montreal.

Mr. Alexander remembers that he was having Grade 11 exams in advanced French and math. He asked his teachers for an exemption. They said he could have one, but urged him to try, to keep his mind occupied. He did as he was told, and aced the exams. The funeral was held on Nov. 5, the day Jamie turned 10.

The following April, Mr. Alexander turned 16 and immediately got his driver's licence. He began to drive his mother wherever she needed to go. He handled the lawn, recruiting Jamie to pull the weeds. And he took over the grocery shopping for his mother, "when she would trust me." He laughs, now, at the spectacle of a gawky teenage boy, alone, shopping for a week's worth of milk and chicken and bananas.

He had considered going into medicine. He saw his classmates working for their dads, as he had once helped out in his father's office. But he chose economics instead. He was accepted at several universities, but picked McMaster so he could stay home.

When the children grew, Mrs. Alexander didn't downsize. She bought an even bigger house, using compensation from Air-India's insurance company. Each child had received a sum according to a sliding scale of maturity: Jamie got $68,000; Tania $63,000 and Rob, the oldest, $42,000. Considering their father had been a surgeon, it was no more than a year or two of wages.

The children knew their mother, who never remarried, didn't want to be alone. For six years, Tania lived in the house with her husband. Jamie is still there, as is Rob, living downstairs with his wife, Linda.

At their wedding in 1998, his mother walked him down the aisle. His grandfather was there too. Jamie, his best man, made a speech about how proud the family was of Rob. "He said my father would have been proud too."

At that, his voice breaks. He cries almost inaudibly, swallowing, gulping air. He's a man now, with salt-and-pepper hair, but he remembers his father's death as though it were yesterday and he were still 15.

He considers Sept. 11, and how swiftly the United States reacted. The government set up a fund for victims and now is about to go to war. In Canada, it has taken 18 years for one perpetrator to plea-bargain his way to a five-year sentence. And despite extravagant promises from politicians at the time, the Canadian government never paid the victims a cent. It has, however, spent $82-million so far on its investigation.

Each June 23, Mr. Alexander and his family hold a quiet memorial for their father. They never saw their grandmother in Kerala; everyone else in the family was too frightened to fly. She lived another three years, dying at 83 in 1988. Dr. Alexander had been her only child.
-- Jan Wong

'For me now, death is something very real'



PRAKASH SAHU
Montreal
Lost his father at 27

When Prakash Sahu switched on his television the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he saw more than the cataclysmic acts of violence that transfixed the rest of the world.

As two planes erupted into fireballs in New York that morning, Mr. Sahu felt he was watching the excruciating scene that had tormented him for 16 years: The explosion of Air-India Flight 182, with his beloved father on board.

"I was seeing it, live. I knew there were people inside the planes. It was as though it was the Air-India plane that was blowing up."

Canadians have moved on since the bombing of Flight 182, but those left behind by the tragedy still struggle every day. Mr. Sahu can't move on. He's unable to take the crucial step in any crime victim's recovery -- the belief that justice has been done.

"A five-year sentence is a joke," he says of the punishment meted out to Inderjit Singh Reyat this week. "He will be out enjoying dinner again somewhere soon, while all these families are still broken.

"Something is wrong with our Canadian laws. Nothing has ever really been taken too seriously; 329 people lost their lives from a plane that took off from Canada. I know nothing will bring anyone back, but the process is so long, and there's no closure. We're not bringing these people to justice."

Now 45, Mr. Sahu is an engineer blessed with a cheerful countenance, but he is forever poised at the threshold of despair. His story about his father is punctuated with tears and choked pauses. All these years later, he still can't gaze at an airplane in the sky without imagining bodies falling from it. He's powerless to stop the nightmares.

When his father died, he was 27, by any definition a grown man. Still, having lost his mother as a child, he was an orphan nonetheless. Even today, amid his ordered engineer's world of precise weights and measurements, Mr. Sahu has yet to piece together the shards of a life shattered by grief.

"It's like a wound. You get a wound and your skin covers it, but the wound inside there is still fresh," he says, removing his wire-rimmed glasses to wipe his eyes. "Poke around a little bit, and it starts hurting again."

He is brought back to the night of June 23, 1985, and wonders if he didn't miss some ominous clues. He had driven his father, Ram, to Mirabel Airport for the night flight to London and Bombay. The elder Mr. Sahu was heading to his native India to visit family members and do some engineering work.

At the airport, father and son shared some tea and a plate of French fries with ketchup. Then Mr. Sahu embraced his beloved "Papa ji," who said goodbye in return, tenderly calling his son by his nickname, Munnu.

Ram Sahu had always been upbeat, someone who would give a friend his last dollar. He loved to build train sets with Prakash, made a great chicken curry, and would laugh at own jokes as he told them.

But that night in 1985, when father and son said farewell, the elder Sahu was sullen. As he walked toward the gate, he stared straight ahead. "Normally, he would look back and wave," his son says. "It's as though he had a strange feeling. Something was wrong."

When Mr. Sahu heard that Flight 182 had exploded off Ireland, he clung to the hope that his father had survived, much as the families of World Trade Center workers kept up their searches long after reasonable hope was lost.

Finally, as reality set in, he flew to Cork with his younger brother, Arbind, to identify their father's body. Later, they travelled to India to scatter his ashes on the holy Ganges River, in the Hindu belief that it would let his soul begin its final journey to heaven.

Mr. Sahu now wishes there had been more time, that he could have done more for his father at the engineering firm that consumed so much of his energy. "I always wanted to help him, but I didn't get a chance."

After the crash, "I started to look at everything differently," he recalls. "For me now, death is something very real. I'm not very old, but death is there. I don't know how long I'm going to live."

Several years after the crash, he married a another Montrealer who'd been touched by the tragedy -- she had lost her husband and two children. Now, although a father himself with a 3½-year-old son, he still mourns.

"For years, I wished I could express my feelings for him. But it was too late. I wished and cried for it, for the fact I didn't say the things I'd felt, the love and admiration I had for him. I wish my dad was around. I could talk to him. I think if he was alive today, he would be proud of me."

Another tear. "It hurts. My father was not supposed to die. Then, all of a sudden, he disappeared."
-- Ingrid Peritz

'The last thing he told me
was take care of Mom'



ROB ALEXANDER
Hamilton
Lost his father at 15


The phone call woke him. Then he heard his mother scream. Rob Alexander jumped out of bed and ran into her room.

"She said, 'The plane went down.' "

The first days passed in a haze of tears and agonizing uncertainty. By week's end, the news was final: no survivors. Bodies and body parts began to wash up, but not that of Dr. Mathew Alexander, a surgeon and chief of staff at West Haldimand General Hospital in Hagersville, Ont.

Mr. Alexander remembers that it had been raining the day his father left for Pearson International Airport. His mother didn't feel confident about driving him. At 15, Rob didn't have his licence, so his father took an airport van from Hamilton.

"The last thing he told me was take care of Mom."

He did his best, and looked out for his sister, Tania, too. She was 11, and had been closest to their dad. Then there was little brother, Jamie, 9, who had trouble understanding what was happening.

"It kind of makes you grow up fairly quickly. I was the oldest son," says Mr. Alexander, now 32 and employed by a Hamilton insurance company.

The Alexanders were Christians from Kerala State in south India. They had come to Canada when Rob was one, and Dr. Alexander, a cardiac surgeon, requalified at McMaster University.

In 1985, he was 40. He and his wife, Esmie, had two more children. He juggled two practices. They paid off their mortgage. Then came bad news.

His widowed mother was ill back in India. Esmie booked him on Air France, but he feared his mother wouldn't make it and was delighted when a friend managed to get him on an earlier flight, Air-India 182.

Afterward, Mr. Alexander's maternal grandfather and uncle flew to Ireland, hoping to identify the body. It wasn't found. The family held a memorial service anyway.

That summer, Dr. Alexander had arranged for Rob, a six-footer, to attend two basketball camps. He skipped one, but his mother wanted him to go to the other. He did as she asked.

In the fall, he resumed classes at Hillfield Strathallan College, a private school in Hamilton. Mrs. Alexander, then 39, was determined to keep all three children there. It was the only thing she knew for sure her husband would have wanted. The school gave her a break on one tuition. She paid for the other two by selling her husband's two practices, collecting his life insurance, cashing in some investments and borrowing where she could.

Five months later, the RCMP called. Dr. Alexander's body had been found in some wreckage. He was still strapped to the seat, his passport in his pocket. The family arranged a funeral, the children's schoolmates and teachers came again, and all the relatives arrived from Edmonton and Montreal.

Mr. Alexander remembers that he was having Grade 11 exams in advanced French and math. He asked his teachers for an exemption. They said he could have one, but urged him to try, to keep his mind occupied. He did as he was told, and aced the exams. The funeral was held on Nov. 5, the day Jamie turned 10.

The following April, Mr. Alexander turned 16 and immediately got his driver's licence. He began to drive his mother wherever she needed to go. He handled the lawn, recruiting Jamie to pull the weeds. And he took over the grocery shopping for his mother, "when she would trust me." He laughs, now, at the spectacle of a gawky teenage boy, alone, shopping for a week's worth of milk and chicken and bananas.

He had considered going into medicine. He saw his classmates working for their dads, as he had once helped out in his father's office. But he chose economics instead. He was accepted at several universities, but picked McMaster so he could stay home.

When the children grew, Mrs. Alexander didn't downsize. She bought an even bigger house, using compensation from Air-India's insurance company. Each child had received a sum according to a sliding scale of maturity: Jamie got $68,000; Tania $63,000 and Rob, the oldest, $42,000. Considering their father had been a surgeon, it was no more than a year or two of wages.

The children knew their mother, who never remarried, didn't want to be alone. For six years, Tania lived in the house with her husband. Jamie is still there, as is Rob, living downstairs with his wife, Linda.

At their wedding in 1998, his mother walked him down the aisle. His grandfather was there too. Jamie, his best man, made a speech about how proud the family was of Rob. "He said my father would have been proud too."

At that, his voice breaks. He cries almost inaudibly, swallowing, gulping air. He's a man now, with salt-and-pepper hair, but he remembers his father's death as though it were yesterday and he were still 15.

He considers Sept. 11, and how swiftly the United States reacted. The government set up a fund for victims and now is about to go to war. In Canada, it has taken 18 years for one perpetrator to plea-bargain his way to a five-year sentence. And despite extravagant promises from politicians at the time, the Canadian government never paid the victims a cent. It has, however, spent $82-million so far on its investigation.

Each June 23, Mr. Alexander and his family hold a quiet memorial for their father. They never saw their grandmother in Kerala; everyone else in the family was too frightened to fly. She lived another three years, dying at 83 in 1988. Dr. Alexander had been her only child.
-- Jan Wong



21 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineYyz717 From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 16248 posts, RR: 56
Reply 1, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 11 hours ago) and read 8044 times:

While heart wrenching, EVERY major airliner crash (and there have been dozens since 1985) leave children behind. This Air-India incident is no different.

As for the comment about the Canadian govt not paying the victims any money, why should it? The Cdn govt has already paid $82M towards the investigation.










Panam, TWA, Ansett, Eastern.......AC next? Might be good for Canada.
User currently offlineNorthStarDC4M From Canada, joined Apr 2000, 3004 posts, RR: 37
Reply 2, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 11 hours ago) and read 7946 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
CHAT OPERATOR

well... ummm... i dont want to get involved in this but i do have a correction to make...

the check in agent worked for CPAir, Canadi>n didnt exist yet.



Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
User currently offlineTKMCE From India, joined May 2002, 841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 7794 times:

Canadi>n Boy
Thank you for posting this. The memories of this accident, can never be forgotten.
And for all of this who thinks that Canada has dome everything it can, you forgot one thing, my friends.
More than half of the 329 people who died in the crash were Canadian citizens!
Yes, they might have been of Indian origin, but being Canadian citizens, I would not blame them if the families expected more from their country of their citizenship! I can only contrast the way Canada handled this incident with the way Japan handled the JAL 747 crash soon after where a whole nation stood in mourning!

TK


User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 7775 times:

Dear TKMCE,

It is I who owe you sincere heartfelt thanks for restoring my faith in the fact there are people on this site with the intelligence and sensitivity to see this topic and read the words for what what it and they are meant to imply. I was beginning to think I was alone in expressing sympathy here for the victims and their families. I trust and pray you yourself were not personally affected by the Air India tragedy.

I was very moved by the words of the 5 "children", now adults in the article posted above. It was their collective feeling of angst and suffering and helplessness I was attempting to convey to the members here, of which some who replied to this topic have not the faintest clue of human empathy.

You are right, this tragedy can never be forgotten, and you are absolutely correct in terms of your opinion of how the Canadian government handled this
horrific tragedy.

Most sincerely,
Canadi>nBoy
YYZ


User currently offlineTKMCE From India, joined May 2002, 841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 8 hours ago) and read 7748 times:

Canadi>nBoy
No, I was not personally involved. When this happened, I was the same age as Rob Alexander(one of the persons profiled), living in Kerala, the place to where Dr Alexander was travelling. I still remember the incident vividly from the dignity with the local media reported the incident and covered the tragedy of the Alexanders and a few other families from Kerala including Air India cabin crew who hailed from the state and who lost their lives.


User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 8 hours ago) and read 7725 times:

This was a very painful post to read. I don't know any of the families mentioned here, but I do know a number of other people who lost family in this incident. Arguably, for a tight-knit group of people like Air India crew were in those days, we lost 21 members of our family.

156 victims were Canadians, 122 were Indians, 22 were Americans and 29 had other nationalities. More importantly, 329 were humans.

The most tragic part of this was the fact that 125 of these 329 vicitims were aged 19 or less. Innocent children who couldn't even comprehend the politics that they were about to lose their lives over. 125 lives cut short before they could even begin.

I may be the only person here who appreciates the work that the RCMP put into this investigation and prosecution. I've dealt with the RCMP folks who have dedicated 18 years of their lives, essentially a majority of their careers, to solving what remains the most heinous crime perpetrated from Canadian soil.

Despite the criticism of how long the investigation took and how much it cost, I am pleased that the first conviction was obtained, and that it looks increasingly likely that the other two convictions will also be obtained in time. Due process has been followed. It is due process that separates a civilized society such as Canada from the "Khalistan" motherland that the Sikh terrorists claimed to be fighting for. Especially after watching the US reaction to the September 11 tragedies, the Canadian approach seems so much more appropriate.

Thank you Canada for restoring my faith in due process. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but justice has been served in the end.



User currently offlineSlawko From Canada, joined May 1999, 3799 posts, RR: 9
Reply 7, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 8 hours ago) and read 7701 times:

I assure you B747-437B that you are not the only one here who appreciates the work that Canada and the RCMP have put into this....In my opinion there is no better way to commemorate those who died then by making sure that those who committed the acts are punished....A plaque or a Cheque mean nothing if those responsible are not dealt with accordingly....


"Clive Beddoe says he favours competition, but his actions do not support that idea." Robert Milton - CEO Air Canada
User currently offlineCaptaingomes From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 6413 posts, RR: 55
Reply 8, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 8 hours ago) and read 7686 times:

This is really a difficult subject. I do not personally recall this tragedy. I was 7 years old, however, I don't remember hearing it on the news. It's a tough call as to whether the Canadian government owes the families money over this. I think it would be in the families' best interest to see those responsible face repurcussions. It's a shame it takes 18 years, but at least it's finally happening.

To me, the families should be taken care of, with respect to any costs they incurred as a result of their loss. However, I don't agree with the American philosophy that these families should profit from the situation. The Canadian government has shown their dedication and their willingness to work on this in a meaningful way, and I hope it is respected by all.

Canadi>nBoy, I await your reply (but if you yell at me, I'll have to tell Susan Pigg.)  Smile



"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
User currently offlineHmmmm... From Canada, joined May 1999, 2104 posts, RR: 5
Reply 9, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 7 hours ago) and read 7668 times:

Justice has been served? Due process? The cockroach that did this got 5 years. He should get 329 death sentences. Or at least 329 consecutive life sentences. But because his crime was under Canadian jurisdiction, he got 5 days in jail for every person he murdered. 5 Days.

Murder 1 person and serve 5 days -
Murder 2 people and serve 10 days?
Murder 329 people and serve 60 months in jail.

Is that the value of a human life in India? Is this the rate at which you value your own people, or of humanity in general? Is this why you are satisfied with the verdict?

I don't know which is more exasperating: That such a crime would get such a penalty, or that a fellow Canadian, and an Indian of all people, should think this a just verdict. This is a disgrace of gargantuan proportions. Canada has the most lenient criminal justice system ever in the history of criminal jurisprudence. All this did was remind Canadians of that.



An optimist robs himself of the joy of being pleasantly surprised
User currently offlineSlawko From Canada, joined May 1999, 3799 posts, RR: 9
Reply 10, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 7 hours ago) and read 7652 times:

What if his deal with the feds nails 5 or 10 more people connected to this attack?? And what if his testimony helps to secure stronger convictions for the others already charged??? Canada does have a very lacks system, but it is the system that is in place in more ways then one....and if you want to change that then vote for someone who will.....frankly these people should have never been granted citizenship in the first place, and I agree he deserves more, I would hang him from a post if I could, BUT if his deal gets more of those involved convicted then I feel that it is worth it....It would be easy to just pick off those we 'think' are connected to this event and string them up...but then were would we be? No better then those who blew up the 747 in 85.....


"Clive Beddoe says he favours competition, but his actions do not support that idea." Robert Milton - CEO Air Canada
User currently offlineYyz717 From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 16248 posts, RR: 56
Reply 11, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 7 hours ago) and read 7646 times:

The sentence was far too short. However, if you read a detailed explanation of the case in the National Post recently, you'll see that much of the evidence was circumstantial & that plea bargaining was required to effect any prosecution.

As for what the Canadian government did (or did not do), they have paid C$82M on the investigation of this case so far, which is a hefty price. I'm not sure what more could have been done by the Canadian government, other than achieve a faster prosecution.

Canadi>nBoy, I await your reply (but if you yell at me, I'll have to tell Susan Pigg.)

Don't hold your breath Nuno.



Panam, TWA, Ansett, Eastern.......AC next? Might be good for Canada.
User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week 6 hours ago) and read 7610 times:

Reyat was a pawn in the larger scheme perpetrated by folks like Bagri, Malik and the late Parmar. He was a Sikh electrician who got carried away with the rhetoric of the Khalistani clerics. By every account, including the RCMP and the prosecution's own, he had no advance knowledge of the plans to sabotage the two planes. He claims that he was told that the bombs were to be used against property in India.

He has been in custody since 1988, first in England and then in Canada after being extradited. He has served 15 years for his actions (on convictions related to the Narita bombs), and will serve 5 more years. Just like his bombs separated parents from their children, his incarceration took him away from his family as his kids were growing up. Worse still, his family has to live with the stigma of his conviction which is indeed a big deal in the Sikh community (not to be confused with the militant Khalistanis).

If he turns evidence against the men who hired him to build the bombs or even provides leads that help prosecutors do their job, it will enable the masterminds behind the entire plot to face justice as well. I truly believe that Reyat regrets what he did and has paid an enormous price for his actions. Some think that 20 years in jail is not long enough, but in my humble opinion this is the best outcome that can be expected after 18 years of blood, sweat and tears.

Sorry if I offend or exasperate people with that, but it is truly the way I feel.


User currently offlineGoing64 From Netherlands, joined Oct 2002, 329 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (11 years 6 months 1 week ago) and read 7509 times:

@Canadi>an Boy
Thanks for this valuable contribution. Like that this is shared on a.net. Makes us remember that we get a lot of love from our aviation hobby but that others will have some aviation fear for the rest of their life.
Peter


User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (11 years 6 months 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 7417 times:

Hmmmmm wrote:

"Justice has been served? Due process? The cockroach that did this got 5 years. He should get 329 death sentences. Or at least 329 consecutive life sentences. But because his crime was under Canadian jurisdiction, he got 5 days in jail for every person he murdered. 5 Days."

Absolutely bloody sickening, isn't it? A sham and a slap in the face to all
of the victims and their families. Justice served? Me thinks not. Not by a long shot.

B-747-437B wrote:

"He has been in custody since 1988, first in England and then in Canada after being extradited. He has served 15 years for his actions (on convictions related to the Narita bombs), and will serve 5 more years. Just like his bombs separated parents from their children, his incarceration took him away from his family as his kids were growing up. Worse still, his family has to live with the stigma of his conviction which is indeed a big deal in the Sikh community (not to be confused with the militant Khalistanis)."

Cry me a river. Or perhaps, more correctly, cry me an ocean off the southwest coast of Ireland. He was taken away from his children as they were growing up? How about the parents of the AI182 children who were taken away from their sons and daughters for life, as a result of this Bastard's (and others) actions? I am sorry for his children and family, as innocent parties and victims of his crime, but like all of us in life, it all boils down to conscious choices, and the consequences we all must face for those choices. Remind me to buy a sympathy card.


Captaingomes wrote:

"To me, the families should be taken care of, with respect to any costs they incurred as a result of their loss. However, I don't agree with the American philosophy that these families should profit from the situation. The Canadian government has shown their dedication and their willingness to work on this in a meaningful way, and I hope it is respected by all."

"Canadi>nBoy, I await your reply (but if you yell at me, I'll have to tell Susan Pigg  Smile/happy/getting dizzy"

LOL! Mr. Porkchops, thanks for making me laugh! Although I freely admit both my conduct and profane words yesterday were not acceptable on this forum. I was on a brief layover in a place called immaturity, and DAMN! it felt good!
If Father Priola and Sister Carmellita were alive today they would SLAP my face. LOL. Okay okay, seriously, I SUPPOSE I do in fact owe a sincere apology to Yyz717. He had every right to express his views, no matter how.....oh, never mind. He may severely grate on my bloody nerves from time to time (as I'm sure I grate on his) but he's an okay guy, although he must learn not to be so headstrong. So Yyz717, allow me to extend to you my sincerest apology (my claws are not extended).  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

Oh, Nuno, you can hold your breath now, and save yourself a call to the
divine Ms. Pigg.

"Profiting from a situation", such as the Air India Flight 182 act of barbarism is a very very difficult and sensitive (not to mention highly controversial) subject to broach and I will have to gather my thoughts and write about this at a later date. The MAIN purpose for posting this was from an emotional/human perspective, as offered up so bravely by the "children".



Going64 (Peter), This site is full to the brim with stats, figures, fleet registrations, routing/network opinions and theories, etc. etc. A "human" insertion now and then (more than now and then, actually), a "human topic"
is what we all need to remind ourselves what is really significant in our lives.
What I find sad is some cannot "shift gears" and and think and respond in "human/humane" tones and words. Thanks for your kind and wise words.

Canadi>nBoy
YYZ










User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (11 years 6 months 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 7373 times:

Britair started a topic to alert members to a U.K. broadcast series on air disasters/crashes on U.K.'s channel 4. The last installment of the series (below) perhaps may shed some light on those who question "compensation" for the victims families of AI182 (and other air disasters).


"Air Crash"
Part 3: Recovery
Monday 3 March, 9pm
Surviving an air crash is just the beginning of an ordeal that has no end. The third and final programme in the series looks at the long-term human consequences: what happens months and years later to those who survived - and to the families and friends of those who did not. Some are shattered permanently by air disasters; others are re-traumatised by litigation. But many survivors and family members become powerful advocates for air safety, founding organisations, battling government bureaucracies and airlines, and seeking compensation. Such legal processes can be long and brutal. Ultimately it isn't about the money; it's about finding meaning to their loss.






User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (11 years 6 months 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 7365 times:

How about the parents of the AI182 children who were taken away from their sons and daughters for life, as a result of this Bastard's (and others) actions?

You don't have to tell me about those. I grew up with a bunch of them. I know one boy who lost his father, stepmother and all 3 siblings aboard the flight - ironically he had been left behind as a "punishment" because of his bad grades in school. I know another person who lost his son and daughter-in-law (pregnant with his first grandchild). I know too many orphans and widows from this incident alone, so telling me about their sorrow is preaching to the choir.

That said, what would you rather have happened to Reyat? The prime objective of the prosecution has to be to nail the masterminds behind this plot, not the little guys like Reyat. If he provides evidence that can convict Malik and Bagri, then I think 20 years of his life is an adequate punishment for a crime of misjudgement.

I truly don't believe that Reyat knew that the bombs were being used to blow up the airplanes, and as such is guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. Malik and Bagri are the big fish here and their convictions will undoubtedly carry the maximum sentence. However, making Reyat the convenient scapegoat for everything is not in the interest of justice.


User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (11 years 6 months 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7341 times:

I was not so much telling you, per se, as I was making a point to all, so it would appear there is a choir to be preached to.

"I truly don't believe that Reyat knew that the bombs were being used to blow up the airplanes, and as such is guilty of manslaughter rather than murder"

Oh for God sake PLEASE! That statement alone would be hilarious if not for the event and circumstances it's attached to. And just what, if I may ask, did Reyat begin to THINK an explosive device was going to be used for? What logical premise would he have to even associate with this? Reyat carries as much guilt as Malik and Bagri, period.

I agree that all involved should and will be brought to justice and no-one should escape justice, of course. Agreed, Reyat should not be made the principal scapegoat if others are accountable, which is the case. But Reyat's sentence of 5 years is absolutely and without question (in my opinion) total incompetence on the part of the court.



User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (11 years 6 months 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7339 times:

And just what, if I may ask, did Reyat begin to THINK an explosive device was going to be used for? What logical premise would he have to even associate with this?

If you go back to the Punjab crisis in the mid-1980s in India, a vast majority of the bombs there were used not against persons, but rather against property. The terrorists were opposed to the Indian government and rarely targeted civilian targets (AI 182 was the first major civilian massacre that I can recall). Reyat claims (and I believe, as does the RCMP) that he was told the bombs were being used against property targets in Punjab.

I agree that he should be held accountable for his actions, but to put him on par with animals like Malik and Bagri who plotted, financed and executed the massacre of 329 civilians in cold blood is not appropriate.


User currently offlineTKMCE From India, joined May 2002, 841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 19, posted (11 years 6 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 7233 times:

B747-437B
*****
If you go back to the Punjab crisis in the mid-1980s in India, a vast majority of the bombs there were used not against persons, but rather against property. The terrorists were opposed to the Indian government and rarely targeted civilian targets (AI 182 was the first major civilian massacre that I can recall). Reyat claims (and I believe, as does the RCMP) that he was told the bombs were being used against property targets in Punjab.

*****

I find your arguement ridiculous since among the non property victims (as you have eloquently described) by these very same terrorists have been an Indian Prime Minister, a woman who was shot down in cold blood by her own body guards!Ok, the reasons for the background of the problem is well known to informed observers but does it mean you justify babrbaric acts? And remember this was not a hit and run attack by terrorists but one carried out by people who have been indoctrinated! So by the same logic are you going to classify these assassins also as innocent people who did not realise what they were doing?

Sorry mate, there are a few others also in these forums who are aware of Indian history!


User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (11 years 6 months 2 days ago) and read 7217 times:

I fear that I am not making my point clearly, so I won't argue this matter any further.

Simply enough, I believe that the plea bargain worked out with Reyat was indeed the best possible solution under the circumstances provided that he can provide evidence to ensure that the masterminds of this plot face justice.

I have absolutely no sympathy for Reyat or his actions. However, I would rather see due process followed to convict the other two within the framework of the law than let them slip away unconvicted, a real possibility with the planned "triple trial".

Nothing will bring back Capt. Narendra and his aircraft with 329 souls aboard. That is the bottom line and the reason we have waited 18 years for justice.


User currently offlineHmmmm... From Canada, joined May 1999, 2104 posts, RR: 5
Reply 21, posted (11 years 6 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 7164 times:

I don't believe that there is any virtue in letting one terrorist off the hook in order to try to convict another terrorist. Making a deal with the devil in order to get Satan is a practice of dubious logic if one of those terrorists essentially walks. There are no lesser evils. Perhaps if these "lesser" cockroaches were trying to get a bereavement fare, B747-437B would be a little harder on them.


An optimist robs himself of the joy of being pleasantly surprised
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