Missing plane’s saga stirs memories

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, April 10, 2014

When Judy Gibson Jackson heard the news on March 8 that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had lost contact with ground control one hour after takeoff and then disappeared from radar, her immediate reaction was prayer for the families of the 239 passengers and crew members.

Then, grief washed over her and, with it, came the image of a father she never knew.

Jackson’s mother, Bessie Gibson, was pregnant with her when her father’s plane went missing in 1950. Although Jackson could not experience the initial agony of waiting, she has known what it’s like to wait, not knowing what happened to a lost loved one.

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The Douglas C-54D, carrying Jackson’s father, United States Sgt. Clarence Gibson, and 43 other passengers and crew members, was lost two hours into its flight from Alaska to Montana.

One of the largest search missions ever conducted on American soil failed to locate the plane. Now, more than 60 years later, Jackson is still waiting and hoping to know the fate of USAF Flight 2469 and her father and the other passengers.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has brought the missing C-54D back into the news and has given Jackson new ray of hope.

Jackson had no idea that a reporter with The Sunday Telegraph in Australia would bring her father’s story back into the news.

“I received a call from a reporter, Linda Silmalis, who had read an article that appeared in The Messenger some time back about the disappearance of my father’s plane in 1950,” Jackson said. “She was interested in knowing how my mother coped and how my family and I have continued to cope and not lose hope of closure all these years.”

Silmalis’ interview with Jackson appeared in The Telegraph and Jackson is thankful that the story is being told down under. That telling of the story of USAF Flight 2469 by The Sunday Telegraph brings a glimmer of new hope for Jackson.

Her hope is that, perhaps, attention will be focused, once again, on the disappearance of the C-54D. And, if by some miracle, the plane could be found, closure could come to the families of the 44 people aboard that ill-fated plane.

But, so many times, Jackson has run into a brick wall in her attempts to resume the search for the missing C-545D. In January 2009, Jackson received a letter from U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief, Congressional Inquiry Division Shane T. Sullivan, Lt. Col. Office of Legislative Liaison that said no credible information had surfaced that might aid any further search for these brave servicemen.

“I don’t understand that,” Jackson said.

“They have the accident report of every detail of the flight up to its last message. They know the route and where they heard the last report from the plane of its last location. Why can’t they do another search using the technology they have today? They have so many new technical devices, satellites and many other devices they didn’t have back in 1950.

“I just keep praying the plane will be found and we can all have closure for this accident. My family, along with 43 other military families, has been trying to get the US Air Force to perform a second search so we can experience closure to this tragedy. I just pray it will happen before I die. Just try is all we want.”

As the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight continues, Jackson identifies with the families who are also seeking closure.

“I understand their frustration and the emotions of anger, grief, and disbelief they are going through,” she s

“We have a memorial headstone for my father in the cemetery plot where my mother is buried. It would be so wonderful if his remains could be found and brought home to be placed beside her.”

Jackson said her heart goes out to the families of those on the missing Malaysian aircraft.

“My mother never had closure and I know what it did to her,” Jackson said.

“These families are also seeking closure. Hopefully, they won’t have to do like my mother did and spend a whole lifetime not knowing.”