“Families of the Air India bombing victims are moving from group memorials to small, private gatherings and online condolences as they commemorate the 35th anniversary of the worst mass murder in Canadian history during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Physical distancing rules and restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people have resulted in a shift from the in-person memorial services that are held annually in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver.
Air India Flight 182 disappeared from radar off the coast of Ireland after a bomb exploded on the airplane on June 23, 1985, killing 329 people.
Among the dead were 280 Canadians and 86 children.
Renée Sarojini Saklikar, who lost her uncle, Dr. Umar Jethwa, and aunt, Zebunnisa Jethwa, in the bombing, visited the memorial in Vancouver’s Stanley Park on Monday to mourn them privately.
‘There is always this reminder of the senselessness of these sorts of acts. The violence of it is always brought home to me,’ she said.”
CBC’s Podcast show The Front Burner approached me to do an interview about what it’s like to suffer a loss in an airplane bombing. The experience was painful and thought-provoking. Trigger warning: subject matter is about airplane bombings:
“Hamed Esmaeilion lost his wife and daughter in the downing of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 in Iran. Renée Sarojini Saklikar lost her aunt and uncle in the bombing of Air India Flight 182. Today on Front Burner, they share a conversation about confronting grief, living with unanswered questions and looking for justice in the midst of tragedy.”
I grew up reading Chatelaine, an iconic Canadian magazine geared to a female readership. This week they contacted me to write about grief and here’s a little of what I said:
I hate flying and will do anything to avoid air travel. Well-meaning friends often tease me, offering self-help tips: take melatonin, or a red-eye flight so that you can sleep. I nod and smile, but inside, there’s a familiar sinking feeling, the same pit-of-the-stomach contraction that happens whenever images of plane crashes pop up on social media. Like they did on January 8, as the terrible news of the missile strike on Flight 752 began to saturate the media…”
And so, as further details of the tragedy in Tehran unfold and political players in and beyond Canada negotiate their stakes, I expect that public memory will shift along with it, including how the incident and its casualties are remembered and understood.
This is how public memory works: When new information and investments become present, we tend to revise how we make sense of the past.”
On June 23, 1985, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 killed 329 people, most of them Canadians. Today this pivotal event in Canada’s history is hazily remembered, yet certain interests have shaped how the tragedy is woven into public memory, and even exploited to advance a strategic national narrative. Remembering Air India insists that we “remember Air India otherwise.” This collection investigates the Air India bombing and its implications for current debates about racism, terrorism, and citizenship. Drawing together academic analysis, testimony, visual arts, and creative writing, this innovative volume tenders a new public record of the bombing, one that shows how important creative responses are for deepening our understanding of the event and its aftermath.”