Hijacking victims of TWA Flight 847 recall the nightmare on 30th anniversary

Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of a terrifying Middle East hijacking that involved dozens of tourists from the Chicago area.

FOX 32 talked with two of the victims who recalled how their vacation in the Holy Land turned into a nightmare.

George Lazansky and his wife JoAnn remember the terror aboard TWA Flight 847 as if it happened yesterday.

They described their most difficult moments.

"Being separated, because George was on an aisle seat. And so they moved him to an inside further back in the plane," JoAnn said.

"I think when they started to let women and children off the plane, I saw JoAnn leave, and I wasn't sure if I was going to see her again," George added.

Two radical Shiite Muslims, using guns weapons and a hand grenade, had commandeered a flight from Athens to Rome and forced it to land in Beirut. Thirty nine of the 153 people on board were associated with churches in Algonquin and Geneva. They had been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The pilots were forced to hopscotch between airports in Algiers and Beirut, where authorities sometimes tried to turn them away.

"We were running out of gas, the pilot said, but we had to land. And Beirut closed down their airport. They turned out all the lights and lined the runway with trucks. And weren't going to let us land. And so the pilot got on and told us to prepare for a crash landing," JoAnn said.

They still managed to land safely. The hijackers were demanding the release of Shiite prisoners held by Israel, and they did kill one American. But eventually the women on board were let go. Then, after 17 days, George and the remaining men were also set free.

Every five years since 1985, the survivors of TWA flight 847 have gathered to mark the anniversary. But the Lazansky's say there won't be a reunion this year because too many of the victims have either passed away or moved to other parts of the country.

Now, the Lazanskys watch as groups like ISIS seize hostages. The Algonquin couple now offers prayers, as others did for them.

"It hurts us because we think of it, that we were fine. And not everbody gets off like we did," JoAnn said.

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