It seems like yesterday.
We had just finished our grade eleven exams…summer had arrived. I’d found out I failed Math and had to go to summer school. I was greatly disappointed and was drowning in self-pity. I thought my entire life was over…that nothing could be worse.
Until I saw the news that night.
On June 23, 1985, over the southwest tip of Ireland, Air India Flight 182 exploded.
Our friend, Vinod Thomas, was killed along with his sister Anita, his Mom Molly, his Dad Kurian…and 325 others.
They were on a flight to visit their family in India for the summer break.
I watched in horror as helicopters circled the seas near Ireland…lifting pieces of wreckage from the waters below. The realization that the world I live in was not safe…was horrifying.
Others saw it differently. It didn’t happen in Canada. They saw it is a plane crash and not a bombing…not an act of terrorism.
Entire families were gone. Husbands lost wives. Wives lost husbands. Children lost their parents. Parents lost children. We lost friends. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, siblings…so many lost.
Canadians…Indians…did it matter? Why did it matter?
On June 23rd, 2010, the Canadian government apologized. Apologized for an act of grotesque violence that should have been prevented. Apologized for years of shabby treatment of the victims’ families…now victims themselves. Apologized for the neglectful treatment by government offices and security agencies. Apologized for the fact that so many Canadians saw this as a foreign act with foreign victims…maybe by some…but not by all.
The rest of us clearly knew…what terrorism meant.
By the time 911 came around, others began to see how awful it was for an act of terrorism to blatantly turn a world upside down. What it meant when it reached our families…reached our friends and loved ones. What it meant to feel scared and unsafe. But for the friends and family of the 329 passengers of Air India flight 182…we already knew. And sadly, no one listened.
The end of the school year has never gone without me thinking of Vinod. I can’t step on a plane without seeing his face…I touch the exterior…praying it won’t be dragged from the ocean on a hook, from a helicopter…the waters muddied with so much debris…so much loss.
I still hear his silly laugh. He was smart…quiet…funny. He loved music. He had a wicked left-handed tennis serve. He played bass. He was going to be someone.
He was someone.
In 2006, at Halifax West High School’s graduation, Vinod Thomas received his diploma posthumously. Recognized by his peers at their 20th High School reunion.
On the 25th reunion of the bombing of Air India flight 182…when my friend and his family were killed…Prime Minister Harper apologized.
A sundial in Cork, Ireland, states simply “Time flies, suns rise, shadows fall, let it pass by, love reigns forever overall.” On June 23rd, of every year, its shadow points to 8:13am. The moment my friend was gone.
On June 23, 2020…35 years after the bombing…I still see his smile.