Uli Derickson, a flight attendant who helped protect Jews and other passengers on a flight hijacked by Lebanese terrorists in 1985, has died at the age of 60.
Ms. Derickson was the lead flight attendant on TWA Flight 847, carrying 152 passengers and crew on a flight from Athens, Greece, to Rome on June 14, 1985. Just after takeoff, two Lebanese gunmen commandeered the plane.
The violence was immediate. Ms. Derickson took a kick to the chest from one of the hijackers and was kicked again while on the floor.
The terrorists spoke no English, but one spoke German just as she did. This put her at the center of the drama for the next 55 hours as she translated the tense communication between the plane’s crew and the hijackers.
The plane was diverted first to Beirut, Lebanon, where Ms. Derickson successfully pleaded with the hijackers to release 17 elderly women and two children.
After those people slid down the escape chute, the plane was quickly back in the air, headed for Algiers, Algeria, while the hijackers pressed their demands for the release of hundreds of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. While en route, the hijackers forced Ms. Derickson to collect the passports of all on board and demanded that she identify all the Jews. She cleverly told them that the passports did not indicate religions and found ways to shield certain names from the hijackers.
Life was less than peaceful for Ms. Derickson after the hijacking ordeal ended. She returned to her New Jersey home with her husband, Russell, a retired TWA pilot, and her son, Matthew. But unfounded reports that she had given the hijackers names of Jewish passengers on the flight brought threats from extremist groups.
When the truth about her efforts to shield Jewish passengers was verified, she received threats from others. The family relocated to Arizona.
What a world.