The bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 on October 6, 1976, off the west coast of Barbados at Paynes Bay, St. James, has been described as the “Caribbean’s 9/11”.
Guyanese Adele Williams-Sewell, sister of Jacqueline Williams, one of the 73 passengers who died on board the aircraft, made this assertion during the 43rd commemoration of the Cubana Airlines Tragedy on Sunday at the Cubana Monument.
She recalled that her then 18-year-old sister Jacqueline; her friend Raymond Persaud and classmate Ann Nelson were scholarship winners on their way to Cuba to study medicine when they lost their lives.
Fifty-seven Cubans, including the entire Cuban fencing team; 11 Guyanese, and five North Koreans died when the aircraft exploded.
Mrs. Williams-Sewell said the date October 6 was engraved in her “mind and heart” for the past 43 years as the day that she lost her eldest sister.
“It is a date that has a similar echo of sadness for many, many people, the families and friends of those 73 innocents in places as diverse as Guyana, Cuba and North Korea. It was a personal tragedy for each of those families; it was also a national tragedy for all of those countries and for Barbados. It was our Caribbean 9/11 but 25 years earlier,” she declared.
Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong, echoed her sentiments and emphasized Barbados’ continued commitment to Cuba.
“The Government of Barbados and the Governments of CARICOM stand firmly in solidarity with the Government and people of Cuba. This day, the sixth of October, [is] the Caribbean’s 9/11, that precedent setting act [was] the first time certainly in this hemisphere that anyone got it into their heads to use a civilian airliner full of passengers as an instrument of terror,” he lamented.
The Ambassador added that the incident shocked the nation as “Barbadian people were faced with the traumatic task of retrieving the mangled bodies of the 73 victims”.
Mr. Comissiong also suggested that October 6 be commemorated as the International Day against Terrorism by the United Nations and he called on government to consider this proposal.
“If we can accomplish that, perhaps that would be the most positive thing we could extract out of this horrible, horrible human tragedy. It would mean that we remember these 73 victims… we would be ensuring that these victims would not be victimized again by being forgotten,” Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM stressed.
Mr. Comissiong joined Cuba’s Ambassador to Barbados, Sergio Jorge Pastrana and Venezuela’s Charge D’Affaires to Barbados, Alvaro Sanchez Cordero, to lay wreaths at the base of the Cubana monument.