By Brian Moore
THE relatives of those who lost loved ones to a terrorist bomb placed on an Air India jet high above the Atlantic 31 years ago, gathered once again at the memorial in Ahakista last week.
A total of 329 men, women and children died when the bomb planted on board Air India flight 182 exploded at exactly 8.12am on the morning of June 23rd 1985.
And at exactly 8.12am the commemoration began in Ahakista with the relatives and the locals who have, for the past three decades, come together to remember all those who died.
The memorial, which overlooks Dunmanus Bay, has become a place of reflection and calm for all those who visit and for the relatives who arrive, without fail, every year, the community on the Sheep’s Head peninsula holds a very special place in their lives.
‘It feels almost like coming home, we know everybody here and the entire community have been so kind and welcoming to us ever since the first day we arrived to what was then just a grassy field and is now this wonderful memorial to our loved ones,’ said Babu Turlapati, who lost his sons and only children, Sanjay and Deepak, when the 747 exploded.
Following prayers and the laying or flower wreaths, her excellence Radhika Lal Lokesh, the ambassador of India to Ireland, said that the memorial in Ahakista has provided the families with solace and a place to remember their loved ones.
‘This terrible act of terrorism took away husbands, wives and children from so many families, both in Canada and India,’ she said. ‘Here, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the people of this community have created a very special place of peace and comfort for the relatives of those lost and for all who come here,’ Ms Lal Lokesh added.
Representing the Canadian Government, Ambassador Kevin Vickers said that this disaster remains Canada’s greatest loss of life to a terrorist attack.
Referring to the relatives, Mr Vickers said: ‘You are what Canada is all about. You, the relatives of those lost on that terrible day 31 years ago, remind us that in the world we live in today, if we are to triumph over terrorism, it is time to support and help one another, not build up walls and fences.
‘Canada will be forever indebted to the people of Cork and of the community here on the Sheep’s Head for all the support and kindness you have shown the relatives and their families,’ he told the commemoration. Representing the Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said that he was honoured to be attending the ceremony representing the people of Cork and that he was very proud of the local community.
‘This is a very important place for the relatives and I know that the people of this area have become a very special part of their lives over the past 31 years. It is a place of peace and remembrance for all, and I know that this community will always be ready to help and support the families who come here to mourn the loss of their loved ones,’ Cllr Collins concluded.