IN real time, across three continents, three nations joined together this week to remember the 329 people who lost their lives on June 23rd 1985 in the Air India disaster off the West Cork coast.
A memorial garden that contains a sundial dedicated to those who died on board the flight from Toronto to Delhi, was established in Ahakista, and, each year, on the anniversary of the bombing of Flight 182, relatives make the journey here to honour their loved ones.
On that day, 35-years ago, a bomb in the luggage hold on board the Boeing 747 exploded and the jumbo jet, which was 31,000 feet over the Atlantic off Cork’s south west coast, was decimated. The plane crashed into the sea, killing the 307 passengers and the 22 crew members on board.
The tri-national gathering was not possible this year because of the Covid-19 lockdown, instead they all participated in a 50-minute video that can be seen on YouTube. It includes relatives and dignitaries from India and Canada, as well as the people of Ahakista, where the recovery operation by the LE Aishling took place.
The video showed the laying of wreaths near the sundial – a timepiece that was designed to cast its own shadow at the fateful hour. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Canadian government, its embassy and its mounted police; as well as the government of India and Cork County Council. A special song too was performed by the children of Ahakista National School.
The ambassador of India to Ireland, Sandeep Kumar summed up the mood of the video best when he said despite Covid-19 ‘community spirit cannot be locked down; kindness and humanism cannot be locked down; public outreach cannot be locked down.’