Ceremony honoring massacre victims, survivors Ďa huge reunioní comment (0)
June 14, 2012
By Julie Payne
May 30th was a hot day in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with temperatures soaring into the 90s. Shielded from the sun under large white tents, a group of about 200 people gathered outdoors to attend the 40th anniversary remembrance ceremony to honor both the Puerto Rican victims and survivors of the May 30, 1972, Lod Airport Massacre in Israel (see story, page 12).
For those in attendance, it was a time of remembrance, reflection and special reunions.
Norman Lytle and his wife, Martha, had served as Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) missionaries in Israel from 1964 to 1992 and were living with their children on the Mount of Olives during the time of the attack.
Several U.S. college students had joined the Lytles in Israel the summer of 1972 to serve in various ministry capacities.
Pat Terry, professor of nutrition and dietetics at Samford University in Birmingham and a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, was one of the college students who served alongside the Lytles that summer.
Terry and the Lytles never forgot about the Puerto Rican survivors they ministered to after the attack. After receiving invitations from the Puerto Rican Senate to attend the ceremony in San Juan, they looked forward to reuniting with those they had met in the midst of tragedy 40 years ago.
During the ceremony, which lasted from about 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a Lod Massacre memorial was dedicated. One area of the memorial contains the names of the 17 Puerto Rican victims, and another area is inscribed with a summarized history of the attack.
The Lod Massacre memorial is part of a Holocaust memorial plaza that sits across the street from the Capitol building in Old San Juan. Terry explained that the Jewish community in Puerto Rico helped raise funds for the memorials.
The touching ecumenical ceremony included words from several religious leaders. “The best part was the testimonies of the survivors,” Terry noted. “It (the ceremony) was wonderful and the reception was even better because we got to sit around tables and talk to Pastor [José] Franqui and … some of the other [survivors] we had known.”
According to Norman Lytle, Franqui lost his first wife, Vasthi Zila Morales de Vega, in the 1972 massacre.
Franqui was accompanied to the ceremony by some of his family members, including his current wife who, like Franqui, was also a massacre survivor.
Lytle recalls taking Franqui up the Mount of Olives shortly after the attack because Franqui desired to see the area before he left Israel.
When the two men reconnected 40 years later, Franqui immediately remembered Lytle and called him “my Jerusalem pastor.”
“It was very emotional,” Lytle said.
While many of the ceremony’s elements stood out to Lytle, he agreed with Terry that one of the most meaningful aspects of the trip was the opportunity to reunite with the survivors he had ministered to in 1972.
“That’s exactly what it was — a huge reunion of people seeing each other for the first time,” Martha Lytle added. “The group continued to enlarge [that morning] and people began to recognize each other after 40 years. Hugs were many.”