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The children of Air-India

The Globe and Mail, Feb. 15, 2003

What does it mean to lose a parent in the worst act of terror in Canadian history? Five people who had a mother or father aboard doomed Flight 182 share their stories in this article published in the Globe and Mail Feb. 15, 2003.

NATASHA MADON

Vancouver

Lost her father at 4

Natasha Madon was attending a birthday party in Bombay when she learned the airplane that was to reunite her father with his vacationing family had fallen into the ocean.

It was not an accident, she was told. Someone had put something on the plane and it had exploded. Almost five years old, she didn't understand what they were talking about.

"Maybe he just couldn't find us in Bombay," she now remembers thinking. "I had the feeling that, when I go home, he will be there."

Sam Madon had been on his way from Vancouver to join Natasha, her mother Perviz and eight-year-old brother Eddie, who had gone ahead a month earlier to visit family members. The Madons had emigrated in the late 1960s, and were bringing Eddie back to Bombay for his navjote,the coming-of-age ceremony of their Zoroastrian faith.

When news of the tragedy came, Perviz Madon was already on the way to the airport to pick up her husband. "I remember jumping into the back of a cab and not understanding what was going on at all," her daughter says. "I was sitting there, with Eddie, quite confused."

Her memories of what happened afterward are blurry. Her mother left a few days later for Ireland to recover the body while she stayed with an aunt. A few weeks later, there a funeral service, a cremation and then the flight home to Vancouver, where her father was a professor at the Pacific Marine Training Institute, which merged with the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 1994 (a picture of him still hangs on a wall there).

Now, at 22, the petite Ms. Madon has an easy smile and an optimistic outlook. But tears well up when she talks about life without her father.

She feels cheated. She was too young, she has too few memories. She can recall going to the park with him but can't remember what his voice sounded like. For more, she must rely on others. "People describe my dad as a very loving person, with a great sense of humour and a great love of life. He was well-liked, well-respected.

She constantly wishes he would come back. "I think of him every day. Sometimes I'm just sitting somewhere and I think of him. Or I see a picture."

Losing him cost the family so much. She cannot remember a Father's Day with him. He was not there for her dance recitals or her high-school graduation. He will not be there for her wedding or when her children are born.

"It can never be made better. Nothing can ever fix it."

And yet, she feels lucky. "Despite what we went through, we managed to have a somewhat normal and happy life. My mom has ensured that. We are a very close family."

And they speak often of the disaster. "We deal with our emotions openly in this family, especially with this."

The Madons did not get together with other Air-India families, and for many years thought they were the only ones in the Vancouver area. But they had many close friends who made sure they were well-loved and cared for.

And most of all, Ms. Madon had dance. "It's, like, my first love."

She says she abandons herself to movement. "I don't think about anything when I dance. My mind is blank. That's the thing about dance, you just enjoy it."

Until tendinitis in both knees halted her career, she danced as much as four hours a day, six days a week. She danced tap, ballet and jazz, travelling to Boston, Philadelphia and Hawaii for training.

She competed and won trophies. But she could never escape June 23, 1985. Another anniversary, another headline, another court date.

As she got older, she asked Eddie about what happened. She started to look into the political movements allegedly involved in putting a bomb on the plane, the reasons behind their terrorism and why they felt they had to do it.

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