I know Uli Derickson left us for a better "line" back at the beginning of '05, but I was very surprised to see she got a large write up in today's New York Times Magazine, as one of the most important people to have died during the year.
Here is a bit of the article, you do have to subscribe to read the rest, although it's free.
"In some ways, the first 20 minutes were the hardest, because she couldn't judge how much worse it might get, or how quickly. Uli Derickson had been preparing to serve drinks to the passengers in first class not long after takeoff when two men barreled down the aisle of the plane, screaming in Arabic and waving around grenades. One put the muzzle of a gun to her head. "What do you want?" she shouted. "I am German. Maybe I can help you." Today, perhaps, there would be no conversation, only a paralyzed silence; but in 1985, hijackers had a history of at least making overtures toward negotiation. These men, Lebanese Shiite Muslims, wanted the release of more than 700 prisoners held by Israel. The flight crew could not help them with that. All the crew could do was take them, as they demanded, from Athens, the departure point of T.W.A. Flight 847, to Beirut and Algiers - rather than to Rome, as planned.
Heroism can happen by chance rather than by choice. The terrorists spoke almost no English, but one spoke German, which meant that Derickson was suddenly responsible for the flight's safety. She was the only crew member able to communicate with the captors. Derickson was 40, a useful age for a woman dealing with two frenzied men in their 20's - young enough to be pleasing yet nearly old enough to be their mother. Though she cried and shook uncontrollably during those first 20 minutes, when the terrorists pistol-whipped the pilot and co-pilot, they told her she wouldn't be hurt. Their assurance didn't exactly soothe her, but it did give her something she could use.
She worked on accepting her responsibility, her mortality. She started strategizing.
Derickson enjoyed a comfortable married life in New Jersey, but she wasn't soft. As a child, she had faced a different form of terror while fleeing with her mother across the border from East to West Germany, sleeping in haystacks by day, fearful of land mines and soldiers and border guards. Now she was an adult, staring down two wild-eyed, scared young men. "No matter how difficult it was, I always looked upon them as human beings," she later told The Los Angeles Times. "If you don't, you might as well give up."
When the plane made its initial landing in Beirut, she made her first move. She pleaded with the terrorists, Let the women go. The terrorists refused. The older women, then, and the children, she insisted. Amazing what can happen if you ask: they relented. Derickson rounded up the selected hostages and coaxed them down the emergency slide, even as they resisted, too terrified to move. Then it was on to Algiers."
Rest of article: