Survivors Recount Rome Attack
Dec. 29, 1985
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Memories of blood, screams and confusion - of the terrorist attack at Rome's international airport - accompanied the passengers of El Al flight 386 who reached Israel late Saturday.
''A grenade rolled toward me. I dove and hid under the table,'' said John Pollack, 21, a college student from Westchester, N.Y., who was hit by shrapnel in one arm and under his eye in the attack.
''It was absolute mayhem. People were running around ... The Italians were firing ... The El Al security people were firing with pistols,'' he said.
Arab terrorists, believed Palestinians, rolled hand grenades and fired automatic weapons into a crowd of holiday travelers at the Rome airport Friday morning, resulting in the death of 15 people and wounding 74. Another terrorist attack five minutes later in Vienna, Austria, killed three people and wounded 47.
The apparently coordinated attacks were believed to be in retaliation for the Israeli assault last month on the Palestine Liberation Organization headquartes in Tunis, Tunisia, investigators in Rome and Vienna have said.
''I covered my head. I thought I was going to die. I kept saying, 'Good Night Irene,''' added Pollack, one of five El Al passengers wounded in the Rome attack. Two of the wounded remained behind in a hospital, said El Al spokesman Norman Kleiman.
He said 107 of the 170 passengers booked on the flight arrived in Israel Saturday. The rest either canceled their trip or delayed it until Sunday.
Kleiman said seven El Al employees also were wounded, one requiring hospitalization. He said the attack came 20 minutes before check-in time, minimizing casualties.
''I wanted to go home. I just wanted to be some place where I felt safe,'' said Amy Sirkin, 20, of New Britain, Conn. She said two of five friends from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., subsequently canceled their trip.
''I don't think Israel is any less safe because this happened.'' she said. ''I didn't want to go back to the airport. Going back to the airport was really trying. Once we were on the plane, I felt safe.''
Fabio Serreni, a pediatrician from Milan, Italy, was struck in the hand by shrapnel.
''I was so scared. I lay down... I heard rat-tat-tat and then screaming and blood around me,'' Serreni said, waving his bandaged hand.
Shai Aviv, 24, brought another souvenir - a bullet hole in his suitcase. ''They threw a grenade. Then I heard bursts of automatic weapons fire for about three minutes. We lay flat. I kept hoping the bullets wouldn't find me,'' said Aviv, an Israeli student who had just completed a world tour.
''It was awful,'' said Fanny Brill of Argentina.''Suddenly I heard shooting from behind. Luckily an Israeli security man next to me pushed me down.''
Hugging and kissing tearful relatives at the airport, Mrs. Brill said the attack ''seemed like it took a lifetime. Next to me someone screamed and then he was dead.''