EgyptAir co-pilot swapped shifts to prepare for his wedding
CAIRO, Egypt – EgyptAir co-pilot Adel Anwar was eager to return home to prepare for his wedding on Friday, so he swapped shifts and took a colleague’s place in the cockpit of Flight 990.
On Sunday, the day of the ill-fated flight, his fiancee quit work at a travel agency, planning to become a homemaker. She’d been packing bags, decorating the apartment and getting ready for their honeymoon.
”He traveled a lot. It was just another regular flight,” said Anwar’s brother, Tarek, tears quietly streaming down his face. ”Or so we thought.”
Adel Anwar was one of 217 people aboard the EgyptAir Boeing 767-300ER that crashed Sunday nearly an hour after taking off from New York’s Kennedy International Airport. Nobody was believed to have survived.
Tarek Anwar was among grieving relatives, looking haggard after a sleepless night, who showed up at the airport’s EgyptAir sales office Monday to inquire about tickets and visas for a flight to New York to identify the bodies.
A group of 73 family members and 39 EgyptAir officials flew to the United States on Tuesday to begin a grim wait in a Rhode Island hotel, hoping searchers will be able to find the bodies.
”I wish I had been on that flight. I wish it had been me who had been sacrificed,” EgyptAir chairman Mohammed Fahim Rayan told the relatives before boarding the flight with them.
After arriving in New York, the family members were to be flown on a chartered flight to Warwick, R.I.
In Cairo, as relatives waited for information at the airport, some gazed vacantly at their feet, others puffed nervously on cigarettes. A few broke into wrenching sobs.
”My father. My father,” one man wailed. Then he raised two hands in supplication: ”Please Allah, grant me one wish. Bring back my father safely to us.”
Some relatives who did not have passports were issued the documents the same day. The U.S. Embassy scrapped normal procedures to speed up the issuing of visas, and spokesman Dave Ballard said the embassy received hundreds of calls to a special information line it set up.
Also Monday, the first EgyptAir flight out of New York since the crash arrived in Cairo, its flight number all too familiar: 990.
In Egypt, a prayer for the missing is to be held in mosques across the country on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, Religous Endowments Minister Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq told the Middle East News Agency.
At the airport, some relatives shared memories of their loved ones.
Hamdi Hanafi pulled out a pink ID card showing a picture of his daughter, Walaa, who was returning home on Flight 990 from a two-month vacation with her aunt in California. It was her first trip abroad.
”Her aunt wanted to show her the United States,” Hanafi said, tears glistening in his eyes as he gazed at the picture of the 22-year-old woman with shoulder-length dark hair and a big smile.
”She was having such fun there that she delayed her return by three days,” he added.
Ibrahim Qassem lost his son Tamer, 24, on the flight. He worked for the International Monetary Fund and also was on his first trip abroad, attending a seminar in New York.
”I didn’t want him to go to New York,” Qassem said. ”I just had a bad feeling about this.”
The grieving father said he would not go to identify the body. ”I cannot do it.” Instead, two of Tamer’s cousins will make the trip.
Ragab Abdul Baki, an engineer in the Egyptian army, telephoned his wife three hours before the flight left New York.
”’I’m coming home for lunch. Wait for me,”’ Abdul Baki told his wife, according to his brother-in-law, Mohammed Abdul Fattah.
Abdul Fattah said his sister had to be taken to hospital Sunday after a breakdown. Abdul Baki left four children.
Tarek Anwar said his brother Adel, the co-pilot, had been flying with EgyptAir for more than 12 years. He had been entranced by flying since age 4.
As a young boy, Adel Anwar once went to the roof of their house and built a crude plane out of scrap metal and an engine from a toy car. He told his friends he would try to fly it. When his father heard, he beat him out of worry and closed off the roof, Tarek Anwar recalled.