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Catherine Little is a Toronto-based educator, consultant and writer.
Catherine Little is a Toronto-based educator, consultant and writer.

Catherine Little

While the Air India convict is freed, I will remember a young victim Add to ...

Catherine Little is a Toronto-based educator, consultant and writer.

Had it not been for an act of terrorism, I might not even remember her. Instead, I have thought of her periodically over the past 30 years. Each time Air India Flight 182 makes it into the news – I am reminded that when I was five, I used to know a little girl with a shy smile.

This week, I find myself thinking about her again because I think it is important to be reminded of more than the perpetrator being released from prison.

We were around the same age so she’d be in her mid-40s now. What would she be doing? What kind of family would she have? Would our paths have crossed again? I’ve wondered these same things, with a twinge of sadness each time there has been a development in the investigation of Flight 182.

The bombing of the flight was probably the first time I had ever encountered the word terrorism. Even though I knew her for such a short time, and hadn’t spoken to her in years, the way she died affected me deeply.

I can’t even imagine how her family and all of the other families have, and continue to, suffer.

We would occasionally pass each other in the hallways of a high-rise building nestled in Toronto’s Crescent Town. We’d smile, share the occasional giggle and, every once in a while, we’d wave as we saw each other disappear into our respective apartments.

As a new immigrant, I was only learning the language and didn’t play with other children outside of school very much. I considered her my friend.

By the time I learned she had been killed in the Air India bombing, my family had long since moved and I hadn’t seen her for many years but I recognized her immediately. It was her eyes. She had big, beautiful eyes and there they were staring back at me on the evening news – her name listed as one of the 329 people killed on the flight.

I was in the middle of high school and I realized she would never finish.

An arrest coincided with university applications and I was reminded she wouldn’t be applying. Other developments in the investigation, arrests and trials seemed to coincide with milestones in my own life.

She didn’t start a career.

She didn’t find a partner and marry.

She didn’t have children.

She wasn’t the only one.

Three hundred and twenty nine lives were stolen when the plane exploded. Whole families were killed together. Surviving family members have been haunted by what might have been for over 30 years and today must be especially painful for them.

And I know I won’t be the only one thinking about a particular girl with a shy smile.

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