Local

Hijacking victims 
gather, remember TWA Flight 847

Deb Jorgensen (center) and her mother, Dorothy Sullivan (left) look at newspaper articles and photographs that were published about the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on Sunday at Mandile’s Restaurant in Algonquin. Sullivan, 85, was part of a local church group that was held captive during the ordeal. (Catalin Abagiu – cabagiu@nwherald.com)
Deb Jorgensen (center) and her mother, Dorothy Sullivan (left) look at newspaper articles and photographs that were published about the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on Sunday at Mandile’s Restaurant in Algonquin. Sullivan, 85, was part of a local church group that was held captive during the ordeal. (Catalin Abagiu – cabagiu@nwherald.com)

ALGONQUIN – Lorraine Anderson, 86, of Fox Lake, remembers the leather boots her Islamic Jihad captors wore as they marched up and down the aisle of the Boeing 727, brandishing 9-millimeter pistols and grenades.

“I don’t know why, but that sticks out in my mind,” Anderson said.

The captors placed a U.S. Navy sailor, who they eventually killed, in the seat across the aisle from Anderson after he was beaten, she said.

“’What are they going to do next?’ That was my thinking,” Anderson said. “What are they going to do next?”

“The hours were long.”

Anderson was one of 39 people from St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Algonquin and St. Peter’s Church in Geneva who were on TWA Flight 847, which was hijacked June 14, 1985.

Everyone from the group survived the ordeal, however, only 17 members still are alive. On Sunday, a group of about 20 people, including some family members, gathered at a restaurant to reminisce, catch up and look at newspaper clippings on the 25th anniversary of Flight 847.

They hold a reunion every five years, said Cy Grossmayer, who is a deacon at St. Margaret Mary.

“You do get a certain amount of camaraderie and closeness when you’re together like that,” Grossmayer said.

The group was returning from a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land when their flight from Athens to Rome was taken over by two men with 9-millimeter guns and grenades shortly after takeoff.

If passengers’ heads weren’t low enough, the captors would come around and knock them on the head with their gun.

Women and youngsters were let go three hours into the takeover.

The men on the trip were held for 17 days by more members of Islamic Jihad.

There were times when Grossmayer, 82, didn’t know if he would survive. He said one of his captors played Russian roulette with him and held a loaded gun to his head. He pulled the trigger six times, but the chamber was empty each time.

“Every time you hear that click, your heart falls,” Grossmayer said.

The plane eventually was strapped with explosives. Hostages were later lined up against a wall as though they were about to be executed.

“There were several times during the hostage-taking that I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Grossmayer said.

After being taken off the plane, remaining hostages were taken to locations around Beirut for the remainder of the ordeal.

Grant Elliott, 52, of Crystal Lake, was 27 years old during the incident. At times, he didn’t think they would make it.

“It seems like now when you’re kidnapped, they blow you up ... back then, they negotiated more,” Elliott said.

“I knew there were some negotiations going on,” Elliott said. “It brought back memories of the guys taken for 44 days in Iran.”

Dorothy Sullivan, 85, of Aurora, remembers how the captors made them keep their heads down and said “no talking.”

When Sullivan was let go after three hours as a hostage, she was taken to Paris and then back stateside where she had to watch and wait for the rest of her travel group to make it back.

“That was really sad, because many men were still there.”

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