Yesterday I spoke to a friend whom I have not met or spoken to since April 27 1976.The last time I saw her was in the wee hours of that morning. Her husband and mine were helicopter pilots with the RMAF (TUDM) based in Kuantan at that time. Besides that, we had something else in common in that we were both teachers, but teaching in different schools in Kuantan. I presume she was also a science teacher because I remember we attended a Science in-service course together once.
Fate dealt a heavy blow to her at such a young age. Her husband and ten others were shot down by the communist terrorists while on duty flying in the ill-fated helicopter. The crash killed all of them. I came to know about the incident when I got back from school at about 2 p.m. on the 26 April 1976. I still remember the shock and horror that engulfed me at that time. Recalling that dreadful moment still makes me tremble and shudder with fear and disbelief. It drove home the fact that it could have been my husband on board that fateful aircraft. I was also very young and naive at that time. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that the communists were able to bring down such a big helicopter and killing all on board. I always thought they were more of a nuisance than of any actual threat!! I guess that incident made me grow up.
After getting the green light from my husband, I went to her house at about 4 p.m. When I arrived at her house, I found out that she had been notified of the crash but she was still unaware that all had perished. I suppose the Base had to go through certain formalities prior to spelling out the cruel truth to her. I had been forewarned by my husband to keep mum about the deaths so I put up a courageous front when I greeted her.I was quite taken aback by her calm demeanour. She was still able to keep up small talk with the small crowd of friends that had gathered at her house. I really don't know what was playing in her mind at that instant. May be she was clinging on to the hope that her husband had survived the crash. Honestly, I felt a bit uncomfortable at her ability to suppress her feelings. I was not able to stop the unpleasant speculations from invading my evil mind. I could not help asking myself why she behaved so "indifferently" towards an issue of such immense gravity. To make matters worse, when the Commanding Officer finally conveyed the sad news to her at about 9 p.m. she was still in control of herself. I was not able to comprehend how anyone could remain so "aloof and untouched" by such terrible news.I could see some tears before she sought refuge in the privacy of her bedroom, only to emerge minutes later looking even calmer than before! Gosh,here was one lady with a heart of stone, I concluded cruelly.
I was in for more surprises the next morning 27 April 1976. Before driving to school, I stopped by at her house only to find her all ready to board the military vehicle to take her to school!! She was finally convinced that she could forget about school for the time being. That was the last time I saw and spoke to her.
Dear Khadijah a.k.a. Mrs. Wan Munshif, if you happen to read this, forgive me for misjudging you. I never thought anyone could stand up to such extreme devastation and misery with such a high degree of calmness, patience and tolerance expected of a true Muslim wife . Had it been me in that situation at that time, I think I would be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I remember asking some mutual friends about you a few years after the fatal crash. The rumour was that you had remarried and settled down in Perlis. When my husband was doing some research on the crash for his blog, sometime last month, he found out that you had never, ever remarried. This came as a shock to me, so I had to do some research of my own. I summoned all the courage to inquire on your marital status during our telephone conversation.
Dear Khadijah , you are truly an exemplary wife and mum. I realise now that your deep, undivided, undying and everlasting love for your husband has spurred you on courageously, bringing up two beautiful children single-handedly. The late Wan Munshif is a national hero. So are you, Khadijah, so are you.