This week, everyone is looking back and remembering the tragedy that happened on September 11, 2001. But do you remember the tragedy on September 11, 1976?
A group of foreign extremists hijacked a plane. As they say, history repeats itself.
Here’s what happened:
A Croatian immigrant named Zvonko Busic masterminded a plot to hijack a Trans World Airlines plane headed from New York to Chicago.
He and three others, including his wife — an Oregonian he met while studying in Europe — hijacked the plane late on Sept. 10 and told the captain to get on the radio and inform the tower of their demands: they wanted a manifesto they’d authored to be printed on the front page of some prominent U.S. newspapers and flyers dropped from aircraft over urban communities.
If these demands weren’t met, they were going to blow up the plane and everyone on it with bombs they’d stashed on board.
The manifesto was found by police in a locker at Grand Central Station in New York the next day, Sept. 11, along with another bomb, which they took to the police firing range and attempted to dismantle.
In the process, the bomb exploded, killing one officer and wounding three others.
Back on the plane, 35 passengers were let off during a refueling in Newfoundland. The flight was rerouted to Paris and there, Busic and the other hijackers surrendered to police.
It was later discovered that the supposed bombs on board the Boeing 727 were actually pressure cookers. Busic was an anti-Yugoslavic nationalist and the manifesto was a rallying cry of sorts to give Croatia back its freedom.
Busic served 32 years in prison and was released in 2008. Croatia regained its independence in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In 2013, Busic shot himself in the head. Hundreds reportedly attended his funeral and politicians lofted his achievements for Croatian independence.
Curbside Press informally polled more than 20 different people, many of whom were already born when this event occurred.
None of them had ever heard of it.
While the Busic hijacking is hardly as recent or as deadly as the more infamous 9/11, these tragedies share more than just a day of the year in common.
Just like the toppling of the World Trade Center in 2001, Busic’s plot was intended to wake the world up to his reality and make a statement. He told reporters that he had no terroristic intentions during the 30-hour ordeal, but that’s a tough pill to swallow when a man is dead and a plane was hijacked.
These terrorists were criminals, no doubt about it. But not only that, they were martyrs for a cause that gained momentum because of their actions.
Croatia and other Communist-held nations in Europe, just like Afghanistan and Syria or any other Middle Eastern country, are similar in their historic and political relevance, too.
Each of these nations found themselves at a crossroads over what was to become of their homeland. Over decades of wars fought by a feuding superpowers and the redrawing of arbitrary borders, their homes were sacked, their families were destroyed, their resources were plundered.
They watched as the self-described “important” nations griped over the way of the world that they were a part of but had little say in.
With so much in common, why are these acts of terrorism treated and remembered so differently?
Obviously, September 11, 2001 was an unmatched tragedy in terms of lives lost. Innocent, civilian, unsuspecting lives. It was earth-shattering.
After 9/11, nations around the world ushered in an era of national security. Military spending increased. Government surveillance soared. Immigration policies clamped shut.
In short, we all tried more of the same that was tried during both World Wars. During Vietnam. During Korea.
Yes, the impact of these two cases of terrorism are quite different in their scope. But why is the forgotten 9/11 of 25 years prior, in particular, lost to memory?
It could be that the plane eventually landed and no civilian lives were lost, even though a police officer was killed by foreign agents on U.S. soil.
It could be that we’ve constructed a narrative in this country of terrorists as brown-skinned religious extremists, even though acts of terror have been carried out by many races and for varying ideologies.
Indeed, when a white man said he committed a crime for the sake of his homeland he was heralded for it. And not just in his own country, one of the hostages on the plane told The New York Times that he “wished the hijackers well… they were only trying to get a story across.”
It could be that our political and military ties to certain regions create a higher sense of urgency for retaliation, even though America has military bases in more than 70 countries and embassies in many more — including in Croatia.
It could be because of the media frenzy that resulted from the World Trade Center attack, even though other tragedies, like Pearl Harbor exploding, were seen all over the world and retold in film and on radio, too.
Only one thing is clear: no matter who you call a terrorist or what they shout before taking another life, innocent people are paying the price for war games promulgated by politicians and the people affected by their ploys.