Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 27, 2005

In Memoriam, Uli Derickson

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:00 am

A hero of the fight against terrorism (pre-2001 edition) has passed away:

Uli Derickson, the Trans World Airlines flight attendant honored for saving passengers’ lives in 1985 by confronting and mollifying terrorist hijackers, died on Friday at her home in Tucson. She was 60.

Though the two hijackers spoke almost no English, Derickson was able to speak with one of them in German and occasionally calm him by singing a German ballad he requested.

She also intervened during beatings, often putting herself in harm’s way.

“Don’t you hit that person,” she would shout, a passenger later told the New York Times. “Why do you have to hit those people?”

The most terrifying moment for her, she later told Glamour Magazine, was when the crueler of the two hijackers asked her to marry him.

At one point they asked Derickson to sort through the passengers’ passports to single out people with Jewish-sounding names. Although various news organizations initially reported that she had followed their orders, she in fact hid the passports, her son said.

From another account:

Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Derickson and her parents were expelled to East Germany in 1945. The family later escaped to West Germany, and Uli made it to the United States in 1967, where she became a flight attendant for TWA.

During a stop in Algiers, the ground crew wouldn’t give them fuel without payment — and the terrorists promised to kill a passenger every five minutes until they got some. “I asked for permission to go to my purse, and I got out my [credit] card and gave it to them. They put 6,000 gallons of jet fuel on my Shell credit card.”

That is one gutsy and resourceful lady. I hope someone paid her back for the jet fuel.

From another obituary:

“Everybody looked to her for courage and guidance,” Tom Cullins, an architect in Burlington, Vermont, who was a hostage on the plane, said in an interview Wednesday. “She was clearly in control. She even made demands of the hijackers.”

Cullins added, “We have nothing but the utmost respect for her and a debt of gratitude for really heroic acts.”

For those of you who might remember, this was the same hijacking in which the terrorists murdered Navy Steelworker Second Class Robert D. Stethem, who now has a Navy ship named after him.

One Response to “In Memoriam, Uli Derickson”

  1. billybob Says:

    Uli was a hero, not so much Stethem. She should have a plane named after
    her!

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