9

So Who Has A Lady Problem They’d Like to Share?

Yesterday was July 4th (well, duh, of course, since today’s July 5th), but it was more than the 239th anniversary of America’s independence; it was also the 39th anniversary of one of the most flawless hostage rescue operations of all time, the Raid on Entebbe aka Operation Thunderbolt. The raid brought attention to the terror that was Idi Amin, brought posthumous fame to Yoni Netanyahu, the young and educated commander of the operation (and brother of future Prime Minister of Israel Bibi Netanyahu), and laid the foundation for many future hostage rescues.

But one of the real heroes went relatively unsung: Patricia Martell.

Entebbe raid

A short history lesson:

In mid-June 1976, a regularly scheduled Air France flight took from Tel Aviv to Paris via Athens. When the plane landed in Athens, about 50 people got off, and 30 more got on. Once in the air, four of those who boarded in Athens – two Palestinian men, a German man, and a German woman – hijacked the plane and diverted it to Entebbe, Uganda. They decided to hold the passengers hostage in exchange for 53 Palestinian prisoners to be released from jails in Israel and Europe.

Eventually, they landed in Entebbe, and through crazy good planning and very good luck, the Israeli intelligence drew up a rescue plan in 5 days and rescued (almost) all the hostages in Uganda on July 4, 1976. It took all of 90 minutes.

Pretty smooth operation.

However…

Once the plane was hijacked and headed to Africa, the pilots told the hijackers that they were low on fuel and they wouldn’t make it, so they made a refueling stop in Benghazi, Libya. They had only stopped briefly and did not allow anyone off the plane. However, one passenger, a British-Israeli woman named Patricia Martell, had a plan.

Ms. Martell went up to the hijackers, asked to get off the plane because she was pregnant and had miscarried. Her pants were stained with blood and she was still bleeding everywhere.

The hijackers (including the one lady hijacker, who might have had some sympathy for the bleeding woman), were probably like:

So, Patricia Martell got off the plane.

But…she didn’t have a miscarriage.

She wasn’t even pregnant.

She was, however, a nurse in an Israeli hospital who happened to a) have a sharp object in her purse, like a knitting needle or scissors or something (this was pre-9/11, so you could take just about anything on a plane), b) know exactly where to stab herself on the inner thigh to cause a lot of bleeding but not sever an artery, and c) the guts to do it to herself and then lie about it.

Once Patty got into the Benghazi Airport, she headed straight for the Libyan Airlines counter (hopefully having changed her pants) and booked tickets on the next flight to London. She arrived later that day, where she immediately went to Scotland Yard and the Israeli embassy to give testimony which proved to be decisive. In the days before Twitter or Facebook, Ms. Martell gave the all-too-important details and descriptions of the hijackers, the passengers, the plane, and where they could be.

She is still alive and living in Israel. In a 2006 interview, regretted her decision, saying that it was “pretty stupid,” but considering what resulted, I’d disagree.

And that’s how a problem with someone’s lady parts played a part in stopping a hijacking, saving hostages, and stopping an international incident.

Well done, Patricia Martell. You do you.

Works Cited:

“Entebbe Thirty Years On: Mancunian on Board.” Jewish Telegraph. <http://www.jewishtelegraph.com/enteb_2.html>. Web.

Kerr, Gordon and Phil Clarke. Hostages: Dramatic Accounts of Real Life Events. London: Canary Press eBooks, 2013. Web.

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2

So SO Much Better

VIVIAN: Elle, this isn’t some little sorority thing –

ELLE: Oh, I know, this is a big sorority thing.

This morning, I woke up to some of the most pleasing and surprising news I’ve heard in weeks.

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winners were announced: First, 60-year-old Indian child protection activist Kailash Satyarthi

Then…

Wait for it…

Pakistani education, childrens’, and human rights activist, terror attack survivor, and all-around hardcore take-no-prisoners chick

Malala Yousafzai. 

At age 17, she is the youngest Nobel Laureate ever.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Malala Yousafzai and Elle Woods together in the same sentence? Actually…looking at what I just typed, it is kind of weird. Kind of like that comic strip panel with the bikini girl and the burqa-clad woman passing each other on the beach. One is very real and one is very fictional, but both women stand up for their rights. Both represent the underdog, and fight tooth and nail with their words to get what they wanted. And what they got was more than they ever expected. They defied the odds and are indeed “so much better” than before.

I don’t want to share too many details of what happened to me this week that deterred me from posting too much, but suffice it to say that this victory for man(and woman)kind makes me put the petty issues going on in my own life into perspective. There are people out there – some real, some on our stages and our cinema screens – who deal with problems that involve more people than just themselves, or their immediate friends and family. There are problems out there that affect communities, cities, ethnicities, and even entire countries, yet living in the microcosm that we inhabit, we tend to ignore the seismic issues going on around us in favor of the unimportant phantom tremors of crap that make us roll our eyes, grit our teeth, and stamp our feet. As humans, we should all look out for one another, not as friends, not as relatives, but as members of the same species that deserve a chance at life, at love, and at happiness. We do not know how much longer we will be on this Earth, but we’re fucked if we continue to spend what time we have remaining using warfare to tear each other down, whether it be physical, virtual, verbal, or psychological. Genuineness and truth of the heart are values that our society suppresses, yet without our hearts we would not be able to function.

Literally. We would be dead.

So let’s learn from Malala, and Elle, and what the hell, Kailash Satyarthi too. Look at all they have accomplished, in less than 100 years of life, collectively. If we really put our hearts, minds, and spirits to it, think of it – we could live three times the lives we have, it terms of quality and output. We, too, could achieve greatness, reach our own goals, whatever they may be. Let’s spend our time wisely, loving, caring, and looking out for one another, opening our hearts to a greater good.

It is kind of a cool ironic twist. Just last year, I posted an entry with my thoughts on Malala and my hopes that she would win the Nobel Peace Prize. And now that it has indeed happened, that’s one more door opened, one more light turned on, one more ray of sunshine beaming down on the planet we call home.

Dear Malala: I don’t know what you’re doing right now, but I hope it looks (and feels) something like this:

(PS: Welcome, first visitor from Fiji. And yes, I did make that last gif myself, thankyouverymuch.

2

Ronnie in Retrospect, Part II

To those of you who didn’t read my previous post with this title, click here.

This doesn’t really fall under the category of book review, but after reading her book, I felt a kinship with Ronnie Spector.

I cheered for her when she had victories; I felt for her when she endured emotional pain, physical pain, mental anguish, and heartache. I’m not locked away in a mansion in the Hollywood hills, but in my normal life here in Madison, I tend to be my own prison guard and lock myself away from the world. Being alone has its positives: time to imagine, to reflect, to celebrate yourself, but if you’re not careful, the negatives can come out, leading you through dark paths and down steep slopes. When she had no audience, she turned inwards, which ultimately did more harm than good.

Mental illness is not an easy topic to talk or write about. Reading her words, however, made it seem more tangible and understandable. She writes about all the times she felt dark and all the circumstances that left her feeling that way. Though it was not discussed in depth, her sister Estelle also endured mental illness, of a different kind. It is fortunate that Ronnie was able to share these with the world; unfortunately, we’ll never read about the times and traumas of Estelle. I admire her search for herself, which continues to this day. She’s still got it, rockin’ and rollin’ all the way to the Hall of Fame as seen in her acceptance speech, but constantly navigating through the roles of musician, parent, friend, and person.

The biggest thing that I’ll take away from Ronnie Spector is the concept that you are not a bad person. She includes these words several times throughout her book. In times of failure, she asked God what she did wrong, citing her missteps and misfortunes: the downfall and breakup of the Ronettes, her attempts at a solo career, her failed marriage, her inability to conceive Phil Spector’s child, her failed attempt to reunite the Ronettes, and her troubled relationships with her family members. I would like to apply these words to myself.

Just like Ronnie said, despite my faults, my failures, my faux pas, and all the people who dislike me, I am not a bad person.

Oh, and be my little baby.

ronettes

***

Dear Ronnie Spector,

Please come do a concert in Madison.

Baby I love you,

Jacob

4

My Redheaded Firecracker Grandmother

Today would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.

She was my mother’s mother, and my last surviving grandparent, whom I affectionately called Mimi because my oldest cousin couldn’t say “grandma” when she was a toddler.

Over the course of her very full life (97 years and 89 days) she accomplished an amazing number of things before she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are ten of them.

 

  1. She was remarkably well-educated at a time when not all women in America had that kind of luxury, drive, or wherewithal. Not only did she complete high school, but studied accounting at City College, today known as City College of New York (CCNY). 
  2. She was a member at the workforce at a young age; we think it was 16 since she lied about her age to get a job as a saleslady at Macy’s in Herald Square, which started her lifelong trend of denying her age. A true lady never reveals her age.
  3. She helped with the war effort; after seeing an ad in the newspaper, she moved to San Francisco to work as an accountant for a meat-packing plant. She lived with a cousin, and remembered how she got chauffeured to work every day in a private company car; a luxury. She also fondly remembered how her employers offered her a competitive salary.
  4. After the war, she returned to New York City, where she worked in accounting at a private hospital on Park Avenue in Manhattan, where she billed the rich and famous. One of her favorite memories (which she told me, and only me, over a plate of pasta at Noodles & Company) was the day she met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In those days, hospitals had doormen, and one day, one of the said doormen came into her office, saying that Mrs. Roosevelt had walked in with a bouquet of flowers. Along with all the other hospital staff, she went down to the lobby to catch a glimpse of the First Lady, who had just finished visiting her friend and was walking down the stairs. I like to picture it as a Hello, Dolly! moment, only in more sensible shoes. All the staff members lined up and Mrs. Roosevelt went down the line, shaking everyone’s hand. Mimi also remembered that plenty of other celebrities came in as patients and visitors, but by the time I asked she had forgotten who else she had met.
  5. She traveled around the country and around the world, managing to hit up most of Western and Eastern Europe, China, Japan, and Indonesia, as well as visiting Israel six times.
  6. Her skills with numbers won her money in canasta and gin, and though she always liked bridge, she never replicated the same success. She was also a gifted singer. My grandfather, who was obsessed with audio/video recording, made a record of her singing some pop songs. My uncle found the records a few years back and shipped them somewhere (Wisconsin, I think) to have them converted to mp3 files. I heard it once, but since then I don’t know where that recording is. I wish I had it.
  7. She was strong in faith and in giving; she was a lifelong member of Hadassah and loved all Jewish holidays, especially the ones with sweet treats. One of my favorite memories of her later in life was Chanukah 2010, where even though most of her brain was gone, she still remembered the blessings over the candles and said them out loud, in Hebrew, without any help.
  8. She was also strong-willed; she gave up smoking in 1949 when smoking was the glamorous and popular thing to do. She did it when she got pregnant with my mom, her first child, because her doctor suggested that smoking while pregnant might be harmful to her and her baby’s health. After my mother was born, she lost interest in cigarettes.
  9. She was beautiful, with short, fire red hair and a New York accent and was often compared to Lucille Ball. She was also known to crack a good joke in her time. Her fiery hair and personality made her my “firecracker grandmother.”
  10. She always had a good sense of humor. At her 97th (and final) birthday, after the cake was served and eaten, I turned to her, saying “Thank you so much for inviting us to your party and being a wonderful hostess. Same time next year?” Her response: “Absolutely!”

Mimi, I miss you, I love you, and I will always love you.

Ruth Ellen Feingold Wilen Cooper

4/18/14 (The Bronx, New York, USA)  – 6/18/11 (Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

5

And Don’t Call Me Shirley

Holy. Crap.

I don’t know what’s going on with my blog right now, but I just got over 300 views in an hour – mostly from the USA but also from Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Isle of Man. Insert language-appropriate welcomes here.

And not all of them were from me refreshing the page.

If someone can tell me what is going on, please do…

But not before this very important message.

I woke up this morning, checked my Facebook, and read one of the saddest things I’ve read in awhile – the death of legendary child star/actress/dancer/public servant Shirley Temple Black.

For those of you who don’t know, Shirley Temple was an adorable little girl whose movies such as Curly Top, Baby Take A Bow, and Little Miss Marker (among dozens more) became American classics, not just for her cute face but for her incredible dancing at such a young age. She appeared alongside some of the best dancers of her time and kept up with them, sometimes even outshining them with her innate ability. As she got older, though, she focused more on academics then acting, announcing her retirement from film in 1950 (which she maintained – Justin Bieber, take note). Her interests moved toward politics, resulting in her appointment to three diplomatic (or should I say, dimplomatic) posts as US Ambassador to Ghana, then Czechoslovakia, and then to the United Nations. She was eighty-five years old, and died of natural causes, surrounded by friends and family. That’s the way I want to go.

Media outlets picked up on her death rather quickly, of course. But these days, I’ve discovered that laxity in reporting has led to more and more inaccuracies when reporting on such events, and often compete so virulently to be the first to break the news that someone inevitably gets it wrong. Remember #nowthatchersdead? Referring to the death of former British PM Margaret Thatcher, people misinterpreted it to mean that legendary singer Cher had gone to the great farewell tour in the sky – so much so that Cher herself had to go on Twitter and post pictures that she was still alive. True, this has been around since the legendary “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline, but more recently, upon the death of Whitney Houston, photos of several African-American female celebrities (Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg) somehow made their way through clueless designers’ filters to accompany articles surrounding the controversy.

So, before you go off and read another inaccurate report on Shirley Temple, here’s a guide to who Shirley Temple really is.

Is This Shirley Temple?

This is the image that inspired today’s post, as I was in the grocery store and almost did a double-take, but I’m so clever that I caught myself. This is not Shirley Temple. This is, in fact, Little Debbie, purveyor of fine, carbohydrate-laden snack cakes.

This is also not Shirley Temple. This is Mary Pickford, an actress from the silent film era after whom Shirley Temple’s mother modeled her daughter’s signature curly hairstyle.

Is this Shirley Temple? No. This is also not Shirley Temple. This is Shirley Manson, British-born lead singer of Madison-based rock band Garbage. Despite having similarly prominent cheekbones, an adorably penetrating gaze, and beauty that increases with age, this is not Shirley Temple. Yes, I’m sure. Don’t let the curls fool you.

Did you guess no for this one? Well, you’re wrong, because this is Shirley Temple. She grew into her looks and made a few films in her late teens and twenties, but most of them failed to replicate a modicum of her previous successes.

This is also not Shirley Temple. Despite the beautiful smile and curly ‘do, this is Shirley Jones, singer and actress famous for many roles including that of the matriarch of The Partridge Family. Here she is as Laurey Williams in the famous film version of the ever-popular 1940s musical Oklahoma!

I bet you thought this wasn’t Shirley Temple. Well, guess what, you’re wrong, because this is Shirley Temple, sporting a lovely jewelry ensemble probably picked up overseas during her Ambassador to Ghana/Ambassador to Czechoslovakia stint.

Is this her? Did I get it right? No. This is also not Shirley Temple; it’s Shirley MacLaine. Also an actress, but turned to the spirit world in her adulthood rather than the actual world. Fun fact: She was named after Shirley Temple.

Finally…

Is this Shirley Temple?

Yes, indeed, it is! Known for her energy and effervescent smile, here she is proudly accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. She really knew her stuff.

To one of the world’s most enduring stars…

Shirley Temple Black, take a bow.

Thank you for your work, you will be missed.

PS: My personal (completely arbitrary) Shirley Temple connection –

When I went with my family to Germany/Prague two years ago, we had the chance to dine at the residence of the Ambassador of the Czech Republic. (My sister used to babysit the current Ambassador’s daughter when they lived in Washington, DC). It was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done and the meal was one of the most elegant I’ve ever enjoyed. Towards the end of the meal, I asked His Excellency, who was a few feet away from me, if Shirley Temple had lived here when she was the ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

First, he said, “You don’t have to call me Your Excellency, you can call me Norm,” and then, he said, “Yes, Shirley Temple did live here when she was ambassador.”

Me: “And did she sit at this table?”

“Yes, she most likely did.”

That pretty much made my night. That, and the fact that of around twenty people at the table, no one had remembered or had thought to ask that.

And that’s how I ate dinner at a table once used by Shirley Temple in Prague.

1

אין סוף (Without End)

I normally wouldn’t do something like this, but something recently made me want to reread a book I’ve already read. I originally read it for a project for which I didn’t even end up using it, but it stuck in my mind all the same. I haven’t thought about this book for awhile, but when I remembered it, I knew I had to get a copy and read it again. Astonishingly, the library didn’t have it so I had to order it through ILL, and since it’s due tomorrow, I should probably write something about it now. It’s one of those hidden gems of literature that says little (90 pages, exactly) but says a whole lot. It’s a novella entitled Bubbeh by Sabina Berman.

I continued eating grapes and talking, mocking the congregation and their Amens, while laughing with amusement at my own cleverness, all with the same mouth, a mouth that was very big indeed that day. And my grandmother, absorbed in her own thoughts, continued putting the pieces of the broken plate together.

Suddenly I felt sad. I stopped talking. The water continued running out of the tap into the sink.

Finally my grandmother said: “Close your eyes.” I squeezed my lids shut.

“What do you see?”

“Nothing.”

“And in that nothing, do you see a light?”

I concentrated. Beneath my eyelids in that darkness something like a yellow and white dust shimmered, a light.

“Yes,” I said. “But I always see that.”

“Always?”

I thought. That light didn’t seem extraordinary in any way.

“Yes,” I said, “always.”

“Always,” my grandmother repeated. “Well, that light is God, and it has many names.”

– Sabina Berman, Bubbeh, page 30

Bubbehor La bobe in Spanish, is a first-person account of the author’s relationship with her grandmother, “bubbeh” (which means “grandmother” in Yiddish). This true story takes place in Mexico City in the 1960s, but Berman’s grandmother comes from the “old world” of WWII-era Eastern Europe.

We are introduced to the grandmother as a woman who “lived tidily,” in Berman’s words. So tidy, in fact, that she has committed suicide by drowning herself in the bathtub, thereby eliminating the need for a traditional body-washing. Backtracking, we see the author as a little girl, moving into her grandparents’ house alongside her newly-divorced mother. Berman uses this opportunity to uncover the secrets of this mysterious, ladylike woman, with a faith in God that is foreign to her. The generation gap between mother and daughter is quite clear, with Berman’s mother’s aggressive and abrasive nature clashing with the grandmother’s more reserved and traditional ways. The more time that Berman (and the reader) spends with her grandmother, the more and more we see the beauty of the grandmother’s reticence and her unshakable faith in God despite having survived the horrors of war alongside her husband. The grandmother says very little herself, preferring to be dutiful to her husband yet maintaining a queenly presence as she introduces the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays to the author. After the author describes her grandmother’s funeral, she returns to the opening image of her grandmother’s death, which takes the reader by surprise even though it was revealed at the very beginning.

What really moves me about Bubbeh is Sabina Berman’s style of writing. The text is translated from Spanish to English but the words are so smooth, you’d never know. The way that Berman catches every detail, all the colors of the room, each crease in her grandmother’s wrinkled face, provides a rich context and a place where you can settle in and embrace the simplicity of faith and familial love. The undertone of her grandfather’s taste for secrets and Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed adds a nice through-line that brings the story together, especially for the grandmother; although grandmother does not read and study like her husband does, she has some secrets of her own.

This story reminds me of my own mother’s mother, my grandmother Mimi. She was also a woman who spoke very little, especially in her Alzheimer’s-ridden final decade, in contrast to her own mother, who died shortly before I was born, whose outspoken nature made her the very image of a family matriarch. In contrast, my grandmother ruled with a different sort of nature; it would be incorrect to say “ruled,” as her equanimity (and unfortunately, failing mental state towards the end) kept her a silent queen, always present but not needing to make her presence known.

To most people, a person who prefers to keep things to herself is perceived as anti-social, cold, afflicted by either a deep sorrow or a negative attitude. But my grandmother was none of those things; she let her love for her children, grandchildren, and religion speak for her. In her younger days, she was a red-headed firecracker from New York City who traveled across the country between the wars to seek her fortune as an accountant in California, who always knew what she wanted and went for it. Upon marrying my grandfather and having children, this chapter of her life was completely shuttered; a locked file cabinet, never to be spoken of again. Even though she never lost her gleam, her luster, her zest for life, she concentrated all of her efforts on being a dutiful wife and mother. Like Berman’s grandmother, my own grandmother had a vast trove of secrets, some of which came out to my mother, and some only to me. Although after her death we found many artifacts of this life, we were unable to piece together a narrative; there were so many missing pieces. Some of my grandmother’s secrets are lost forever. I guess, in a way, by doing this, she cemented her reign in our lives and in our minds. She wanted us to have pleasant memories of her, as sweet, caring, and kind without fault. Without raising her voice or speaking her mind, she got her way, even after death.

My favorite passage is this one, on page 33-34.

I’m in the big bed, as fluffy as a cloud. A long, white bed. My grandmother covers me up to my chin with the goose-down comforter, and she sits down on the edge of the bed. The bedroom is in shadows.

My grandmother leans over to peer into my eyes. It’s an ageless moment. I’m eight years old, perhaps six or even four. Once more my grandmother becomes that tall woman whose profile extends upward, covering the cathedral’s golden clock. Her black eyes penetrating my eyes. Her face, as white as the moon’s reflection in a pond. The pond, my face, illuminated by her own. She passes her hand from my forehead down to my cheeks, half-closing my eyelids.

Her measured voice, distant and close at the same time: “Do you see that light?”

With her index and ring fingers, she taps the comforter on my chest. I hardly feel the pressure.

Yes, that greenish-white light, inside me.

Ayn sof,” she says, scarcely breathing the words.

Everything is like a secret. What my grandmother is now entrusting to me is, in face, a secret.

Ayn sof,” I reply very quietly.

Years later I will learn that Ayn sof means without end in Hebrew. It will take me even longer to fully comprehend that this is one of the names of God. I will be astonished at the simplicity with which my grandmother has asked me if I see that light and at the ingenuousness with which I answer simply, yes.

I will forever be curious about the things she didn’t tell us, things she didn’t leave clues to, and things she didn’t want us to know. Maybe someday, something will surface, but for now, these things – people, places, events, and how she really felt about them – are hers alone, her travel companions in the next stage. Sabina Berman’s Bubbeh is a testament to those lost memories and is something that should be treasured and read by anyone who is need of a reason to believe.

La bobe

This book review has been brought to you by the library of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the scary heavy winds outside.

0

Flying Solo

Tonight, I watched two hours about survivors. No, it did not involve immunity challenges, tribal councils, or Jeff Probst’s “the tribe has spoken.” It was the premiere of a documentary I found out about last week. Entitled Sole Survivor, it documents plane crash sole survivor George Lamson Jr.’s quest to find and connect with other sole survivors of plane crashes – according to the documentary, there are fourteen people currently living who share this unusual experience.

Here’s a rundown of who he found:

  • Jim Polehinke of Kentucky, a pilot who survived a plane crash in his home state
  • Bahia Bakari of Paris, France, a teenager who survived a plane crash in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Comoros
  • Cecelia Cichan of New York City, a woman who survived a plane crash in Michigan as a young girl

Each of them recounted different experiences. George Lamson, Jr., who is reaching out to seek contact and help others. His daughter Hannah plays a large role in the film, and gets more screen time than the other survivors. Jim Polehinke lost both of his legs in the crash, in addition to passengers. As a pilot, he feels guilty for causing their deaths even though there were not enough traffic controllers on duty to help guide the plane. Seeing the trial which basically gave him all the blame and only a minor amount of compensation was shocking. There’s obviously no system in place on how to address reparations in court, simply because there have been so few cases. Bahia Bakari, whose accident was in the recent past (five years ago), lost her mother, but also spoke publicly and published a book about herself. This self-promotion was unique to her. In the beginning of the movie, she appears with a French diplomat who flew her back to France after the crash, and things are very awkward. I don’t know if it’s race, age, or gender, but she looks completely uninterested when on the screen with him, unlike with George, for whom she comes out of her shell despite the obvious language barrier. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cecelia Cichan has been completely silent about her experience. This film was the first time she spoke publicly, now a twenty-something who lives in New York. For someone talking about this moment that has defined her life, she’s remarkably unassuming about it, even opening with comments that she feels inferior to people like Bakari, who floated on airplane wreckage for hours without a life vest, or Juliane Koepke, another sole survivor who kept herself alive in the jungle for several days before finding civilization, whereas she – as a four-year-old – did nothing and was just found and sent to a hospital. That made me cringe a little; part of me wants to say, “give yourself some credit,” but the other part of me realizes that she was shielded from this by her family for most of her life (smart move) and that formulating something to say so publicly when she is still discovering her own identity is probably one of the most uncomfortable sensations; knowing that millions of people are going to see this and you’ve kept it private for all these years brings even more pressure to the event.

My favorite part of the film was George and Hannah’s journey from Reno to meet Bahia and her father Kassim in Paris. Even though George most likely has flown since the plane crash, back in the 1970s when he was a teenager, just watching him do the mundane acts of walking down the aisle and sitting in the seat are eerie, imagining all the nightmares he must have had. From the moment George and Bahia meet, they have a connection that’s really striking. The father-daughter connections seemed a little producer-forced at times, but even so, they are very touching scenes to watch. According to the film’s closing moments, George has invited Bahia and Kassim to come visit them in Reno.

What bugged me but intrigued me at the same time was how several of the secondary characters came off as ignorant or clueless. Obviously, the French diplomat who Bahia Bakari constantly refutes seems to be on his high horse, as well as the chairman of the Jim Polehinke trial, who comes off as a complete jerk. Yes, the NTSB’s job is to establish a cause in order to move on, don’t say asinine and mildly insulting things to the survivor’s face and the face of the wife of the deceased pilot. The translator in the scenes where George is in France seems out of place as well. The relatives of the survivors of the Michigan crash are respectful, but it’s clear that they largely do not have a connection with Cecelia Cichan and speak of her without having any more information than the rest of the world.

Overall, this was definitely worth every minute, despite a lot of filler. Thinking critically, it makes perfect sense that no two stories would be alike. But they all seem to be willing, on level, to share their stories communally in a way that they wouldn’t do alone. Even Cecelia Cichan, who did not appear alongside the others, cooperated with this project when it would have been just as easy to say no; probably something about the auspices of the framing of her story among others, creating a synthesis where the focus would be on her just as much as it would not be on her – thereby accomplishing, in effect, George Lamson’s goal of establishing community.