Memoir Byte: The Old Fur Coat in Rome #Terrorism



Memoir Byte: The old fur coat in Rome


27 December 1985, Rome, Vienna

Four members of the Abu Nidal Organisation attacked an El Al counter at Rome Airport, killing sixteen and injuring sixty-seven people. A similar simultaneous attack at Vienna Airport resulted in two deaths and forty-seven injuries.




Fur coat in Rome
December 1985 – Pescara, Italy




On the day of the full moon on December 27th, 1985, I was on an Alitalia flight from my hometown in Toronto headed for Rome. I was going to meet up with my then boyfriend who was already there and was to meet me at the airport with his brother who would then drive us to Pescara on the Adriatic coast where the family lived, approximately a 2 1/2 hour drive away from Rome. I’ve always been a stickler for following rules and being on time. And I promised my dad I’d call him as soon as I landed.

Being the end of December, it was winter in Rome just as it was was back home, only not nearly as wintry. I wore my long silver fox fur coat, my pride and joy coat I’d treated myself to with a small inheritance I received from my grandmother a few years prior. I was excited to be spending New Years in beautiful Roma where all the beautiful people dressed immaculately when strolling the streets and cafes. I’d already been to Rome once before and fell in love with the ambiance of the country, the people and the shopping!

Nine hours later we landed. I was excited to get off the plane and see my boyfriend and begin our adventure. But many minutes had passed after we landed in the middle of the tarmac at Fiumicino International Airport,  ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ Airport. Not a peep from the airline staff or pilot. Nobody yet suspected there was anything wrong until a good 20 mins had passed then the natives began getting restless, including myself. Everyone peered out the windows to see what the hold up was, yet there was nothing unusual to see. It wasn’t until passengers, including myself, began bombarding the stewards with questions when the plane was getting stuffy and we just wanted to get off.

A good hour had passed until we learned there was a bombing inside the airport. We were kept on the tarmac for approximately 3 hours before we were released. I was feeling quite anxious as I was walked from the plane, worrying that my father –  the worry wart, had possibly seen the news, or maybe he hadn’t, but nonetheless I was concerned because I should have called him 3 hours prior to inform him I’ve landed safely. I could sense my father’s worry deep within my intuitive gut. I visualized him listening to the news – he was a news junky, and hearing about a bombing at Rome airport where his daughter was headed, while not hearing a word from that daughter for hours after he’d expected her to land.

I was happy to be comforted in my boyfriend’s arms after the ordeal and just wanted to get out of the crazy airport. We still had a 2  hour plus drive to Pescara before I knew I’d get to a phone. Too nervous to enjoy the beautiful country sights on the drive, or to stretch my ‘try to understand Italian’ thinking muscles, and not to mention it was now early afternoon after landing in the morning which was still the middle of the night on my body Toronto time and hadn’t slept on the plane. I remained tired and anxious and filled with a stomach full of angst, quiet.

At long last we arrived at the flat and with feigned interest at all the familial introductions and greetings, I just wanted to scream just take me to your telephone. Finally, my nervous fingers were dialing my dad. And then the floodgates opened up. The sound of my father’s voice had unleashed all the emotions and pent up anxiety in a stream of sobs I’d contained for hours. My father did the same. It took us both a few moments before we could actually converse with words between sobs. And as I had gone through my own journey of worry and a nagging sensation of urgency to call my father all the while stranded until I could get to a phone, I learned about the panic my father lived through.

My Aunty Sherry had seen the breaking news when the terrorists bombed El Al at Rome airport. According to my father, she’d seen many bodies sprawled out on the ground in the airport – some dead, some taking cover, and then she noticed a young blond woman wearing a long silver fox coat lying on the ground as the camera quickly panned over.

My aunt had called my father in hysterics alerting him to what she had just seen and was eager to find out if he’d heard from me yet. But he hadn’t. And two of the most important people in my family life panicked and prayed together that the blond woman in the fur coat wasn’t me lying dead in a Rome airport. All their anxiety had come through to me as the hours passed while I waited to be able to make that call. And God was good to me that day.

Some things we just never forget.




50 thoughts on “Memoir Byte: The Old Fur Coat in Rome #Terrorism

  1. You look beautiful, Debby. How terrible to have been so close to an incident like that – and traumatic to be stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours. Something that will stay with you forever. Toni x


  2. I can’t imagine what your dad must have been feeling while waiting for your phone call. And then the sense of relief when he heard your voice. Thanks for sharing such an emotional memory…


  3. What a hair-raising story, thankfully with a good ending. Yes, “And God was good to me that day.”

    We visited Rome in July 1999 when the city was hot, hot, hot. My fearless husband decided to rent a car and brave traffic in Rome. So, yes, there were screams, but not in an airport – from ME inside the rental, as we maneuvered traffic. Italian drivers like to floor it as the traffic lights tick down 10-1 from stop to GO! The autostrada was fun, I have to admit!


    1. Thanks Marian. And lol, don’t get me started with driving in Rome. Seriously, with the speed and the narrow hairpin turns in some of those smaller towns were downright frightening. I had to close my eyes many times while in a car there, lol. I totally get what you went through with your hubby braving the drive! 🙂 x


  4. You must have been frantic Debby, not just the event itself but being out of touch.. at least these days we have mobile phones and can be in touch in an instant… a nightmare for you… And the added sight of that poor woman in a silver fox coat must have been horrific for your dad and aunt. What a memory.. ♥♥


    1. Truth Sal. The worry about wondering if my father knew what happened and anticipating his worry was more anguish than the situation itself. Some things we never forget ❤ ❤


  5. So scary Deb! Good that your plane landed after the bombing started and you didn’t disembark! I could visualize the movie like situation, can’t imagine it could be real but better than those plane hijacks!! Sure, such memories never fade with time. Thanks for sharing.


  6. Oh wow, Debby, thank God you were alright. We had a few similar experiences when flying to Dublin to stay with the relatives. It never leaves your mind and pops up like a ghost when triggered. xxx


  7. Oh, Debby, that date will never be forgotten. Your poor dad must have been so relieved when you were finally able to reassure him it wasn’t you lying dead on the tarmac.


    1. No kidding Mary. The anguish of that day is still quite memorable. It was something I came across with a silver fox coat that reminded me of this.:) x


  8. Wow, what an awful thing to go through! Just like you I am a stickler for punctuality too, and would have had the same worries if I’d promised to phone somebody. We get more like each other every day!


  9. What a terrible experience, Debby. I’m glad it turned out well for you – look what we would have lost! And that coat – mama mia!
    I had a similar time getting to a flight in Tel Aviv for London, right after a series of bombings around Israel the day before (I had actually just left two of the towns right before the bombings.) I went to the airport at 6 AM for a 2 PM flight and just made it.


    1. Thanks for stopping by Noelle and sharing some of your own panic. It seems like so long ago, yet so vivid once the memory was triggered. Seems as though we are both lucky to be here! Stay blessed. ❤


  10. Some things stay as clear in our memories as the day they happened.. What an ordeal for both you and your Aunt and your Dad… And what a relief for both of you to finally release all that pent up tension and emotion…

    Love that photo of you too Debby.. A beautiful piece of writing by the way… I was with you every step of your journey.. ❤

    Sending Love my friend… Hugs your way ❤ 🙂


  11. It’s no wonder that day is etched into your memory. I can’t say I’ve ever been in any situation comparable to this. I keep putting myself in the shoes of your aunt or dad and can imagine the angst they felt not knowing what was going on.


    1. Thanks Pete. I’m glad to hear you’ve never encountered something similar. Some things just stay with us. The worry is palpable for sure. 🙂


  12. How scary, Debby. It just shows how close we can come to these traumatic events. I can understand how this has stayed with you. My daughter was caught in the huge tsunami in Thailand in 2004. We didn’t hear from her for 6 days. It was the worst 6 days of my life. I know how worried your family must have been. ❤


  13. I had two thoughts while reading this. First, as a parent, I can’t even imagine how terrified your father must have been. And second, as someone who doesn’t like to fly on a good day, I am beyond impressed that you were ever able to walk into another airport.

    So glad you are able to share your experience.


  14. In such situations, our anxiety is compounded by our knowledge that we are making others anxious as well, and we can’t do anything about it. Thanks goodness everything ended up well for you, but what a terrible day all around. I’m not surprised you’ve never forgotten it, Debby. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thank you for reading Olga. Some things we never forget even though deeply embedded through time and yet a memory is so easily triggered. ❤ xx


  15. What a scary situation, Debby! Especially for your dad and aunt. Worrying for hours like that must have been terrible. And, I can totally imagine your anxiety as well. No way of calling from a pay phone at that airport, probably, as parts must have been blocked off. I hope you got your luggage OK! What happened to the boyfriend? And, was he Italian?


  16. God was truly looking out for you that day.
    Even reading this account had me breathless as I rode along inside your head, anxiously waiting to get to that telephone. Makes you realise how much we take our mobile/cell phones for granted these days, doesn’t it? Technology really has changed our lives.


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