John Buonocore III (1965-1985)

John Buonocore III

John Buonocore III, a twenty-year-old Dickinson College junior, was one of five Americans killed in a terrorist attack on Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport on December 27, 1985. Buonocore was standing at the check-in counter of Trans World Airlines when Arab suicide terrorists began hurling hand grenades and firing Kalashnikov rifles at holiday travelers. The attack was aimed at the terminal of El Al, an Israeli airline, and was a reprisal for an Israeli air raid on the headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Tunis, Tunisia on October 1, 1985. There was a similar attack in Vienna at the Schwechat Airport at about the same time on the same day. A total of nineteen people died in the two attacks, including Natasha Simpson, the eleven-year-old daughter of Victor L. Simpson, the Associated Press news editor in Rome. Abu Nidal, an elusive Palestinian terrorist and leader of the infamous Faith Revolutionary Council, was the apparent mastermind behind the attacks.

Only one of the five attacking terrorists survived as airport security forces returned fire. In his clothes, authorities found a note, in Arabic, which read:

“As you have violated our land, our honor, our people, we in exchange will violate everything, even your children to make you feel the sadness of our children. The tears we have shed will be exchanged for blood. The war has started from this moment.”

The letter was signed, “The Martyrs of Palestine.”

John Buonocore was a native of Wilmington, Delaware and was a member of the class of 1987. He was a member of ROTC and at the time the youngest ever captain of the lacrosse team. A Latin and History major, he had studied in Rome during the fall semester as one of five Dickinson participants in the College's partner program with the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies, and was returning home for his father's fiftieth birthday after spending Christmas with relatives in Sorrento.

The campus was particularly shocked at this loss because it followed by one week the death of Christine Major of the class of 1986 from leukemia. Dennis Akin, faculty member in Fine Arts, was moved to design and construct a stained glass window which was installed on the second floor front of Bosler Hall. The window, he said, would commemorate our lost students past and future. John's brother, Todd Buonocore, attended Dickinson and graduated with the class of 1991.

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Dickinson College Archives
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