Pye Chamberlayne: Never before had a terrorist group captured three major buildings and held the occupants hostage. A murderous band from a splinter group of black Muslims brought normal life in downtown Washington to a shattering halt. One man died in the initial burst of gunfire as the Nappies took over. The city lived in fear for two days until a group of Muslim ambassadors persuaded them to surrender.
As the process that would lead to the terrorists' convictions began, church bells pealed for joy, and the hostages exalted in their freedom …
Unknown Speaker: " … as we congratulated each other, and as Jews we said a prayer. Yes, we said a prayer; we said a traditional prayer for the Sheheheyanu: thank God that You have preserved us and kept us to this day."
Pye Chamberlayne: And the nation's capital, never before shaken by quite this kind of terrorism, gave a collective sigh of relief.
Pye Chamberlayne: This is Pye Chamberlayne in Washington.
Edwin Smith: The year of 1977 finally brought the nightmare airlines have been dreading: a head-on collision of two 747 jumbo jets on the runway at Tenerife. A recap after this.
Edwin Smith: It was raining on Sunday night, March the 27th, as a Pan American jumbo jet with 381 passengers aboard taxied out onto the runway of Tenerife Airport. In the murk, the pilots couldn't see that a fatal misunderstanding had arisen between the control tower and the pilot of another 747, a KLM charter flight. The Dutch pilot thought he had permission to take off; but as he started his takeoff run, the two jets met head-on on the runway at 180 miles an hour.
For John Coombs of Haleiwa, Hawaii, the fact that he was riding in the nose of the Pan Am plane probably saved his life …
John Coombs: "We all settled back, and the next thing an explosion took place and the whole port side, left side of the plane, was just torn wide open."
Edwin Smith: In the holocaust of flames so fierce they melted the runway tarmac, 576 persons died, many of them burned so badly their bodies were never identified. It was history's worst aviation disaster.
This is Edwin Smith for Recap '77.
Fred Wayne: Somewhere over Southern France, four armed terrorists hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181, beginning an ordeal for the passengers and crew which lasted for five days. A recap after this.
Fred Wayne: Lufthansa Flight 181 left the Spanish island of Majorca on October 13th bound for Frankfurt; but onboard were gunmen who forced the plane on a tortured odyssey of more than 6,000 miles. They threatened to kill the passengers unless terrorists were released from prisons in West Germany and Turkey. The plane finally landed in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, and hours later a second plane arrived carrying a team of crack West German commandos with plans to storm the hijacked plane as it sat on the runway. An American passenger, Mrs. Christine Santiago, was jolted from her sleep when the commandos blasted their way into the plane …
Christine Santiago: "I'm sitting here like this almost in the back, you know, and I -- and I -- and I see the door open and there comes a man in. He was painted black in the face. And he starts talking German, and he said, 'We're here to rescue you, get down!' he screamed and they started shooting … "
Fred Wayne: The raid was over in minutes. The commandos killed three of the four hijackers and escorted all of the eighty-six passengers to safety.
This is Fred Wayne for Recap '77.