July 2nd, 2009
04:20 PM ET

The survival of Bahia

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/07/01/yemen.plane.survivor/art.bakari.afp.gi.jpg caption="Kassim Bakari said he thought he would never see his wife or daughter again after learning of the crash. "]

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

It wasn’t the Hudson River. It wasn’t a soft landing. It wasn’t a happy ending. When the Yemenia Airlines Airbus went down in the rough seas of the Indian Ocean, 152 people perished. Everyone on board. Everyone except a 14-year-old girl named Bahia Bakari. The way her father describes her, Bahia did not fit the profile of a survivor. She could “barely swim” her father told the Associated Press. She was, he said, a fragile, timid girl.

Bahia was on the plane with her mother, flying from their home in Paris, to Yemen, then on to the Comoros Islands off the southeast coast of Africa to visit Bahia’s grandma. Their flight was approaching the Comoros when it disappeared from the radar. With the wind blowing at nearly 40 miles an hour, the plane went down in the choppy seas of the Indian Ocean. Bahia’s father, back in Paris, recounted for the AP what his daughter told him over the phone. “Papa, we saw the plane going down in the water. I was in the water. I could hear people talking, but I couldn’t see anyone. I was in the dark. I couldn’t see a thing. On top of that, daddy, I can’t swim well and I held onto something, but I don’t really know what.”

Whatever she held on to, she never let go. Somehow, this timid girl, this weak swimmer, suddenly cast into a dark sea, held on – for five hours by one account - 12 hours according to another. Bahia survived with a broken collarbone. One can only imagine the trauma she feels.

Bahia did what any 14-year-old child would do after such an ordeal. She asked for her mother. Her uncle, who visited her in a Comoros hospital, couldn’t bear to tell her the truth. Your mother, he says he told her, is in the next room. One thing child psychologists advise is never lie to a child. Don’t necessarily volunteer details that they’re not prepared to hear. But don’t lie. Bahia’s father says he does not know who is going to break the news to his daughter. “I can’t tell her,” he says. Perhaps he can tell her this. That they’re still searching for her mother. That’s true. But not the whole truth. A transitional truth.

We hope to hear more from Bahia’s father in the coming days. And maybe we will learn more about how a girl who was timid on the surface, found such strength inside herself.

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Olane

    God is powerful if little Bahia has survived, that's GOD's will. As a mother I actually feel awfully sorry for precious Bahia, I feel a pang in my womb. I wish her a very quick recovery either physically or mentaly. I'm sorry as well for M Bakari, be courageous sir, God be with you as you've still a great mission that is to support your daughter. I pray for both of you, God may give every necessary strengthe to face with this tragedy.

    July 3, 2009 at 6:20 am |
  2. Samuel

    Well now,I guess you are part of the problem.Are you at all interested in letting the world think and know the truth.Ruthless killers of great men are getting away.Put the comments out there and let the people decide.The neo-cheaters that still values from hard working human beings play you guys like clowns ,and you just grin and bare it.Michael Jackson should be on the stage delivery the values that he has created for us,not preparing to rot away inside the earth.Help find out who killed him and make them pay.He was so good and really never did a thing to any body .It hurts to see him die like that.If you won't raise the question,no one will and civilization continues to suffer and deteriorate because initiatory force on the innocent.As he is credited with changing the world you should be the first new provider to ask the hard questions and seek true answers.

    July 3, 2009 at 4:56 am |
  3. Beck

    Amazing indeed...

    Every once in a while we come across such "miraculous", "feel-good" news items, and all too often upon closer inspection we can't help feeling we are being duped and cajoled–we realize the story had to have been scripted.

    Facts in such stories are always hazy (BTW we can know very easily whether five or twelve hours elapsed between a crash and a rescue); and survivors never remember anything useful (perhaps so as not to get tripped up in contradictory statements).

    Sadly, I don't imagine many engineers, or for that matter anybody with a science-based education, will be eager to swallow this one hook, line and sinker.

    More likely, they will be wondering whether there Is a dog being wagged, and what that dog might be. And, of course, they will be keeping a jaundiced eye out for footage of 152 bodies being retrieved from depths of the Indian Ocean.

    July 3, 2009 at 12:31 am |
  4. willetta

    There is certainly a God, no one else could have done such a thing. I pray that in time she will heal emotionally, mentally, and physically and that she will fullfil that purpose that the almighty has saved her for.

    July 2, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  5. Kirk Clarke

    Bahia, of all the people on that aircraft, God has spared your life. He has a special purpose for you to fulfill. Be sure to pray to Him and ask Him to show what your special purpose on Earth is and then ask Him for the power to carry it through. God has already richly blessed you!

    July 2, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    Bahia shows us that no matter how we are perceived during usual times, the bad times often bring the steel in our character out so we can survive. I hope the best for the girl and I hope that her deep well of inner strength that served her so well in those hours waiting to be rescued will help her again when they tell her the truth about her mother.

    July 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  7. Ashley

    Wow, that's amazing!

    July 2, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Teresa, OH

    Bahia's survival is nothing short of a miracle.

    As for this: "One thing child psychologists advise is never lie to a child" Parents lie to kids all the time. It's a requirement.

    I would never lie to a child about their parent having died. Bahia probably already knows and she was merely seeking confirmation.

    I'm sure some kindhearted Nurse is going to "accidentally" let it slip soon.

    July 2, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  9. Cindy

    It is totally amazing that this little girl came out of that plane crash with just a broken collar bone! I am amazed! She must have been simply horrified no matter how long she had to wait in those waters for someone to come and rescue her. I think she was probably hallucinating when she thought she heard others talking while she was in the ocean. Thankfully she was able to stay afloat until help came. It'll be hard for her to hear that her mom is gone but I bet deep down she already knows it. I just hope she does well and for the rest of her life she has nothing but great things happen for her. She survived for a reason and I hope she accomplishes what she is meant to do.


    July 2, 2009 at 10:18 am |
  10. Mike in NYC

    Please, folks, let's not call this a "miracle."

    The Deity was apparently not there for the other 152 people on board.

    July 2, 2009 at 9:23 am |