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July 19, 1985 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-07-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

World Wide Photo


Hooded Shi'ite Moslems, who were identified as the original hijackers, at a press conference in Beirut.


For nearly five hours, the
passengers were required to
keep their heads down, hands
over their heads. Anyone who
moved was beaten with a gun
Still, Richard began to
mumble to others about
resistance. He began by
whispering to the passenger
next to him to read the in-
structions on the nearby
emergency exit door in case
of a fast getaway. Together
they mentally practiced the
Just when the other pas-
senger whispered to Richard,
"I understand it," a hi-
jacker saw the exchange and
screamed "Why speak!" At
that he ordered Richard and
Sue Ellen to separate. Rich-
ard did not answer, but they
had no choice. They kissed.
Richard wanted to hold on,
but he had to let go and say

good-bye. Like other men and
"talkers" who appeared
dangerous, Richard was in-
structed to sit on the window.
Sue Ellen was escorted to a
forward aisle seat, and pistol-
whipped on the head as she
sat down.
During the next several
hours, from her vantage
point closer to the front of the
plane, Sue Ellen witnessed
constant atrocities. The
Navy men were tied up and
beaten with an armrest
broken off a first class seat.
The young man beaten most
severely was Navy diver
Robert Stethem. Sue Ellen
recalls, "When the hijackers
asked him if he was a Marine,
he answered 'Navy,' and he
answered proud. And they
beat him so badly."
Tortured yelps and screams
electrified everyone within
earshot. "Stethem could
barely walk," recalls Herz-
berg. "His shoulder looked
like it was separated, his neck
was bleeding. He looked like
he had a concussion."
Stethem was seated just
two rows in front of Sue Ellen
when he was shot between
the eyes with the chrome-
plated pearl handled 9 mm
handgun. It took him five
minutes to die.
As the ordeal continued,
the hijackers patrolled the
aisles and randomly pistol-
whipped passengers as they
passed. Sometimes they
would crush lit cigarettes on

But in fact, Derickson re-
fused to identify for the hi-
jackers which names sounded
Jewish. This forced the hi-
jackers themselves to try to
spot the Jewish people on
board. But after being
handed the chosen passports,
Derickson was coerced into
reading the names aloud.


The Jewish selection oc-
cured during the second of
three landings in Beirut.
First, the hijackers com-
municated with their com-
rades in the Shi'ite neigh-
borhoods adjacent to the air-
port. Rather than rely upon
the airplane's communication
equipment, a wireless tele-
graph key was set p at the
rear of the plane for some sort
of Morse code.
At about 4 a.m., the hi-
jackers read off the "Jewish"
names. When Richard heard
his name called, "I thought I
was dead," he remembers. "I

peoples necks. At one point
they played "Russian Rou-
lette" with a passenger,
pointing the gun barrel di-
rectly at his head.
The endless brutalities con-
vinced Richard, who has a
degree in psychology, that
the two Arab terrorists "were
wired with either speed or co-
caine. They had to be to
engage in 36 hours of nonstop
unbelievable manic behav-
ior," says Richard.

World Wi th Photo

control by kicking, pistol-
whipping and beating men
and women alike. "These
guys were professional,"
declares Herzberg. "They
knew exactly what they were
doing. If there's a training
school for hijackers, they
must have gone to it. Within
fifteen minutes, there was no
question in anybody's mind
who was in charge. The only
question was how fast do you
want us to do it."

next one in, a passenger, who
brought it back to the ter-
rorist. "That confused me,"
admitted Herzberg. "I don't
know what I would have done
in the same situation. They
really did have a lot of hand
grenades without pins. These
guys were suicidal. If a
grenade exploded at 30,000
feet, that would be it."
Until her unexpected de-
parture in Algiers, Sue Ellen
was certain the hijackers
would discover that she was
Jewish, and subject her to the
same brutalities meted out to
Stethem and others. In
Richard's carry-on bag was a
copy of the wedding cer-
tificate signed by Norfolk
Rabbi Israel Borenstein.
And Sue Ellen's bag con-
tained wedding thank-you
cards imprinted "With God's
Help" in Hebrew. Among
them were many addresses in
"Sh'ma Yisrael," chanted
Sue Ellen repeatedly, certain
that death was at hand.

Friday, July 19, 1985 41


At some point, the simple
mechanics of life became an
issue. Six hours into the
flight, no one had yet gone to
the bathroom. The girl next
to Herzberg cried that she
had diarrhea. "I told the poor
girl there is just no way,"
recalls Herzberg. "Go in your
pants if you have to."
Women were finally al-
lowed to go to the front lava-
tory, after the door handle
had been removed so the ter-
rorists could observe at gun-
point all activities. Men were
sent to the rear lavatory.
Their door was kept open. It
was at this point that Rich-
ard caught his first glimpse
of Sue Ellen since their
separation, and was gratified
that she was safe.
Ironically, at one point, one
of the hijackers had used the
bathroom himself and ac-
tually left his gun on the
floor. It was noticed by the

The hijacked TWA jet taxies past the wreckage of a Jordanian
plane after landing for the third time at Beirut International
Airport du;-ing the crisis.
But throughout the ordeal,
started praying, talking to
Richard maintained he was
God, asking him please do
Lutheran, of German and
anything but don't make me
Greek ancestry, and Sue
be a hostage in Beirut. All I
Ellen was not found out.
could think about was living
Sue Ellen's anonymity was
my life chained to a radiator
in large part due to the
somewhere in a dark room."
courage of TWA purser Ule
Richard understood he was
Derickson. Derickson hid Sue
being called because he was
Ellen's passport, which bore
Jewish. He expected he
the maiden name "Deutsch."
would now be shot. As he
"Ule Derickson was her-
walked down the back stairs
oic," declared Richard. "And
and into the still blackened
she got a really bum rap over
morning air of Beirut, he con-
what happened. The woman
fronted the reality of death
saved more than one person's
itself. Death had always been
life, and untold others from
a private horror for Herzberg
beating." Derickson, of Ger-
as it is for most people. But
man extraction, came in for
now, stepping up to meet it,
criticism because she read
his mind raced with the logic
out the "Jewish sounding"
that many people had died
names, including Herzberg s.
Continued on Page 62

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