Once, while flying back from visiting my mother in Vermont, I had the pleasure of changing flights at Dallas International Airport in Virginia.
As we landed, I was filled with memories from long ago.
You see, my family and I lived about fifteen minutes from the airport and we had visited it many times. We lived there from 1969 to 1971. Then, the town was known as Sterling Park, Virginia but I believe the name has since been changed to Sterling.
i have one very keen memory of this airport.
It was one of the United States first hijackings.
It was a warm Sunday afternoon in August 1970. My grandparents were visiting from Germany, and we had just finished clearing away lunch when someone turned on the radio. A news report was being broadcast about a hijacking situation that was currently underway at Dulles Airport.
Now if you can think back that far, you will remember that highjacking an airplane was extremely rare then. I’m not even sure I had ever heard the word until that day.
We all stopped and listened intently to the sketchy information that was being released.
Now, I don’t know whose idea it was, but the next thing I knew is that my father was starting up the car. Mother, grandmother, grandfather, baby sister and me were already packed inside.
Off we drove.
Looking back, it sounds a bit bizarre to pile the family into the car and rush to the airport to witness such a terrible event. However, we were all such news junkies and the lure was too irresistible to ignore.
Twenty minutes later, we were inside the airport along with a crowd of about a hundred other people. We all silently stared out to the tarmac to see what we may.
Way, way, in the distance was the airplane as it stood dangerous and silent with it’s ninety passengers and crew still inside.
The news coming out now was that the hijacker had demanded $100,000 dollars in return for the safe release of the passengers and crew.
(Yes… you read right, ONLY $100,00 dollars, but remember, this was 1970. That was almost an inconceivable amount of money. The only time I ever heard the word “million” used was when it was applied to the distance between the planets and the stars.)
And so, we continued to watch and wait.
Suddenly, there was a convoy of about twenty police cars with flashing lights making their way towards the airplane.
In silence, we all continued to watch the airplane which stood frozen and fixed to the horizon in the distance.
About an hour had gone by when we spotted the police cars as they silently drove back single file towards the airport. The lights were no longer flashing.
It was then that news reports began to emerge that the hijacker had been apprehended. There had been gunfire, but fortunately there was only one victim and it was the hijacker himself.
He had suffered a wound to the thumb.
The passengers of the plane were transported to the airport for security clearance.
True to form, as they emerged from behind security doors the media was there bright lights and all with their microphones in hand peppering the weary airline passengers with questions. Some stopped to answer, others kept walking.
In closing, that was the first time I ever really became aware of the word “hijacking.”
In light of all that has happened since then I have really come to hate that word.
It is one word that I wish the world had never learned.