Go ahead and search for the coordinates 16°51’53″N, 11°57’13″E on google maps or google earth,
and take a look at what you see. At first glance it may just appear to be a barren and empty desert.
But zoom in further and you’ll find that there’s something more to see.
When close enough, at that spot, there’s a surprising and amazing image that looks like an icon of a silhouetted plane.
And there’s a very specific reason for the plane symbol being in that otherwise empty desert.
Read on for the full and very touching story.
In September of 1989, UTA flight 772 was scheduled to operate between Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo and Paris CDG airport in France via N’Djamena in Chad. The plane made it safely to N’Djamena but, 46 minutes after departing from the N’Djamena International airport, something devastating occurred.
A bomb exploded in the luggage area, causing the flight to break up over the Sahara Desert. There were no survivors; all 156 passengers and 14 crew members died.
The plane wreckage was strewn over miles and miles of desert, about 400 miles away from the nearest town.
The site is so remote that some of the pieces still remain there today. Investigations showed that a suitcase bomb had been placed in baggage at the Brazzaville airport, and six Libyans were convicted of the terrorist attack.
But 18 years later, something beautiful came out of the tragic event when the families of the victims gathered to honor their lost loved ones. Les Familles de l’Attentat du DC-10 d’UTA, an association made up of the victims’ families, and some local inhabitants constructed a memorial in remembrance of those who were killed during the flight.
The memorial was primarily completed by hand, and stones were used to create a 200-foot diameter circle. The spot, located in one of the most inaccessible places in the world, the Tenere region, was so remote that they had to truck in the stones from over 70 km (43 miles) away.
They also had to dig, empty of sand, and transport the starboard wing of the aircraft, to be used as an anchor for the memorial.
170 broken mirrors, one for each victim, were placed around the circumference of the memorial. They also commemorated the victims by attaching a plaque that listed their names to the wing. The end result is rather astonishing.
From an aerial view, the memorial looks just like a plane. The 260 foot emblem is actually the same shape and size of the original DV-10 aircraft.
Inside, a compass is depicted that points in the same direction of the plane’s initial intended flight path.
This fantastic creation can easily be viewed from around the world using programs like google earth and google maps.
It took around 2 months to finally complete the memorial, spanning the months of May and June 2007. The entire project cost over $600,000 and was partly funded by the $170 million compensation package provided by the Libyan government.
The initially event that took place was absolutely tragic and horrible. But what the victim’s families did is so incredible. They managed to commemorate those who passed in the explosion with a very powerful symbol that can be viewed and shared virtually anywhere on this earth.