In Remembrance

In the fall of 1988 I joined McKinsey & Company, a management consultancy, in its Toronto office. One of the members of the Canadian Practice was Hanne-Maria Maijala Root. I knew her as Hanne-Maria Maijala because she had only recently married John Root and her name was not yet changed in the office listing. Hanne-Maria knew New York City well and when I spoke to her about a trip I was planning to make to NYC in December I asked her if she had some recommendations on places to eat , favorite book shops etc. She came back the next day with four, tightly spaced handwritten pages of detailed notes on places to see and things to do.

I made my trip to New York and faithfully followed Hanne-Maria’s notes; the highlight was a couple of book stores. One has to recall that in those pre-internet, pre-Amazon days the selection of books was much more limited in Canada and New York had books I would never have found in Toronto. I looked forward to giving her a full report on my adventures.

December 21st was a Wednesday; the next day, at the office (in those days our office was on Bloor Street West) one of the partners let us know that the previous day, December 21st, Hanne-Maria was killed along with the entire crew and passengers of Pan Am Flight 103 — 259 people in total, plus 11 on the ground in the town of Lockerbie Scotland. The aircraft exploded 38 minutes after take off from London en route to New York City.

Hanne-Maria was 26 years old; her birthday was six days earlier, December 15th.

I still have those hand-written notes and on the occasion of the winter solstice, read through them. I remember that December as though it happened yesterday. It is a reminder of how we cannot know how little time we might have to do the things we often push-off for “someday.”

4 Comments on “In Remembrance”

  1. A.M. Barrett says:

    Thanks for this remembrance and the powerful image of the four handwritten pages. Hanne and I worked on a literary magazine in college, and read each others’ work–in the 90s when I lived in NYC on the upper west side I often thought of a poem she wrote about Amsterdam Ave that had a haunting last line: “what if you were in ny now?” Best.

  2. Rob V says:

    I was in England for worldwide McKinsey analyst training in December 1988 in Hythe Imperial Hotel. Hanne was in my study group for the 2-week training and so we got to know each other as much as you can in that context. It was a pretty fun event overall and quite social. Then, a group of us decided to stay in the same hotel in London before going our various ways after training since we had nearly a week before Christmas. It is a distant memory now for details, but we all celebrated birthdays (mine is 12/18) out in the pubs in addition to going to museums. I recall Hanne had been shopping in bookstores for books for Christmas presents (may be off, but I recall she was happy to be looking at French literature after being distant from it for a while, and she had bought her husband Christmas presents I believe at those same book stores). I vividly recall that she took a day trip to Cambridge the day I left for Cleveland via New York (where I stayed several days). I’ll never know why, and will never forget, but I changed my ticket several times for reasons I can not explain. Before the London trip, I had thought one of the touristy things I wanted to take a day trip to Cambridge. And I knew she was going on it. Had I gone with her, I would surely have surely changed to her flight. I’ll never forget that or her. It has given me courage many times to try things and make changes that others questioned, but have always turned out well for me. Not many people know this, but it is my way of remembering her and what happened and perhaps trying to honor her memory by trying to go beyond at times and celebrate life since hers was cruelly cut short.

    So yes, I absolutely agree with your post, and Hanne has been a continuing memory and inspiration for me since she was taken too early and too cruelly.

    At least, I can say we all seemed to really enjoy the training for those 2 weeks since it included so many interesting young people from so many offices. And that extra week in London was fun and memorable with many laughs only to be followed by this senseless loss.

  3. Kevin says:

    Thanks, I knew her in high school, she was a great friend and it was a great loss.

    • brucem says:

      Thanks for your note Kevin. I just realized that next year will mark the 30th year since that event. It is humbling how 30 years can seem as nothing. Bruce

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