When the oxygen masks dropped on their plane, Jolene and Darin Shrock of Goshen knew that something was wrong. People were screaming and the plane kept jerking around.
It wasn't until hours later when the the plane had landed in Geneva, Switzerland, that they realized the plane they were just on had been hijacked.
The Shrock's were seated in the fourth row of business class with their 5-year-old daughter, Claire, and friends Dan and Rene Formsma, traveling from Ethiopia to Rome.
The LATimes.com reports that the Rome-bound plane was hijacked by the co-pilot in an attempt to seek asylum in Switzerland.
The couple is now at home in Goshen and spent a few minutes speaking with The Elkhart Truth on Wednesday.
Why were you and your family traveling Ethiopia to Rome?
Jolene: "We frequently travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, because we have opened an academy in a slum community called Kechene. It is one of the poorest communities in all of Ethiopia and the need there is great. The Bright Future Academy is one of the only ways to break the cycle of extreme poverty in this community. With a population of over 50K and no schools the need is huge! We go to encourage the staff, show love to the children, and shine light in a very dark place. We also have a sponsorship program for our academy so we travel to get updates on the children to share with their sponsors here in the states. Rome was just where we had a connecting flight.
When and how did you realize that something was wrong?
Jolene: "It was about an hour and a half into the flight that the oxygen masks dropped. And someone was on the loud speaker yelling over and over and over again, 'Put your masks on! Sit down! Put your masks on, put your oxygen masks on, sit down.' The plane was quickly losing altitude and people were screaming. Several times during the flight there were hard jerks to the right or left and stuff and flight attendants would go flying across the air plane. My husband was sitting across the aisle from me and we just held hands and stared at each other with our masks on. My daughter was playing a Nintendo game and we tried our best to keep her oblivious to the situation."
When and how did you learn that the plane was being hijacked?
Jolene: "We knew the entire rest of the flight, about four and a half hours, that something was terribly wrong. We could see it on the faces of the flight attendants. But we did not know that the airplane had been hijacked until the flight landed. A man had been walking around business class with a glass of Coke in his hand during the flight. He looked like he was part of the crew. Once we landed, he began sharing with some passengers that he was the pilot and that the co-pilot had hijacked the plane and he was not sure where we had landed. At that point I wanted out of that plane! We were still sitting on the runway and it was about 45 minutes until the police came on board and escorted us off the plane, one by one with our hands on our heads and we had to leave everything on the airplane."
Will this change any future plans you have to travel?
Jolene: "This will not change my travel plans at all. I know now more then ever that God has big plans for the community of Kechene, in Ethiopia. This hijacking has given me an amazing opportunity to share about our non-profit, Awake and Alive, I know that He has big plans for my life and the lives of the precious children in Ethiopia. My time has not yet come."
The Elkhart Truth will be speaking with Jolene and Darin Shrock about their experience on the airplane on Thursday, Feb. 20. What questions do you have for them?