June 23, 2020: The 35th Anniversary of the Air India 182 Bombing

…All the years just wash over and it’s true what remains is, for me, a sense of love for the families who remember and for those who have stood with us…

Photo credit: Adrian Dix

A CBC article published today, “35 years on, Air India bombing to be remembered at private gatherings, online memorial Social Sharing” An excerpt:

“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.”

Read the Full Article


2 lives shattered by airline tragedies, a conversation

CBC the Front Burner

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.”

Listen to the Interview Here


PS Flight 752: Two Articles on Violence and Public Mourning

The missile strike against a civilian plane, PS Flight 752 on January 8, 2020 triggered grief and memories of a much earlier bombing on June 23, 1985.

Here are two articles that contemplate violence within the context of history and solidarity, as we both grieve for the families who lost loved ones and offer a few thoughts:

My Aunt Died in the Air India Bombing. The Iran Plane Crash Brought Back My Grief

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:

Iran plane crash flight 752 memorial
People gather to remember victims of the plane crash in Iran in Vancouver, B.C. on January 11, 2020. (Photo, Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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…”

Read the Full Article at Chateleine

Canada’s collective grief over the Ukrainian plane crash brings to mind the 1985 Air India tragedy

Dr. Angela Failler at the University of Winnipeg, recently published this very thoughtful piece at The Conversation about public mourning and the linkages between the two tragedies:

Flight PS752 Remembrance
A member of the Iranian community in Calgary lights a candle during a memorial for the victims of Flight PS752 crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol.

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.”

Read the Full Article at The Conversation

Sept 14 & 15: Remembering Air India Book Launch

New from University of Alberta Press, Remembering Air India:

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.”

Book launch details in Toronto and Hamilton:

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