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Pan Am Flight 103: The Legacies of Lockerbie

Published: 12/21/2013
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This stained glass memorial window was created in 1991 for the town hall in Lockerbie, Scotland. The flags represent the nationalities of those who died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. (Wikimedia Commons / Chris Newman)

Today, precisely 25 years to the minute after a bomb went off on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988, memorial services will be held at four locations.

  • At Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. at 2:03 p.m. at the Lockerbie Cairn, friends and family will read the names of all 270 victims, who will also be remembered by speakers. The cairn was built from 270 blocks of red Scottish sandstone from a site near the Lockerbie crash and was dedicated by President Bill Clinton in 1995.
  • Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University, N.Y. will be the site of a convocation, also at 2:03 p.m., as part of a semester-long series of events remembering the 35 university students who died on Flight 103. The students were on their way home from a semester studying in London or Florence, Italy. The Syracuse University Archives set up special Pan Am 103 Archives to house materials about and tributes to all the victims, and a scholarship was set up for two students from Lockerbie to attend Syracuse each year. The university itself is closed on the anniversary.
  • In Lockerbie, Scotland, a memorial will be held at 7:03 p.m. in the Garden of Remembrance, where a semi-circular stone wall bears the names and nationalities of the victims. There are other memorials in Roman Catholic churches in Lockerbie and Moffat with plaques engraved with all 270 names, and a stained glass window at the Lockerbie Town Hall Council Chambers displays the flags of the victims’ 21 home countries.
  • Westminster Abbey in London will host a ceremony at 7:03 p.m. organized by relatives of the victims in the United Kingdom.

Memorial stone in memory of the Pan Am flight 103 bombing victims in the garden of remembrance at Dryfesdale Cemetery, near Lockerbie, Scotland (AP Photo / Scott Heppell)

A shadow of a member of the public looking at the main memorial stone in memory of the victims of the Pan Am flight 103 bombing is seen in the garden of remembrance at Dryfesdale Cemetery, near Lockerbie, Scotland, Saturday Dec. 20, 2008. Pan Am flight 103 was blown apart above the Scottish border town of Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988. All 269 passengers and crew, on the Pan Am flight and 11 people on the ground were killed in the bombing. (AP Photo / Scott Heppell)

The victims included 243 passengers and 16 crew members as well as 11 people on the ground. Among the many memorials in the U.S. and the U.K. –– whether dedicated to individuals or the entire group –– are sculptures, paintings, books, documentaries and scholarships, including:

  • Dark Elegy is a sculpture that shows 75 larger-than-life figures of mothers and wives at the moment they heard the news of the bombing and deaths. The sculptor Suse Lowenstein, whose son Alexander died in the crash, had hoped her work would become the official memorial to the victims. According to her website, DarkElegy103.com, the sculpture is on display in her backyard in Montauk, N.Y., where visitors are welcome daily from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. She and her husband plan to donate the memorial when a permanent, public location is found and will use the reparations paid to them by the Libyan government to personally finance the casting of each figure in bronze.

"Dark Elegy" by Suse Lowenstein memorializes the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (DarkElegy103.com)

"Dark Elegy," by Suse Lowenstein (Image via DarkElegy103.com)

  • A bridge at YMCA Camp Dudley in Westport, N.Y. is dedicated to its alumni who were on board Flight 103.
  • Docudramas and documentaries about Flight 103 include Why Lockerbie? (also called The Tragedy of Flight 103: The Inside Story) for British television; Air Emergency for the Canadian Discovery Channel; Lockerbie, Case Closed broadcast by Al Jazeera last year; Lockerbie Revisited, a Dutch documentary; and The Maltese Double Cross – Lockerbie, released in 1994.
  • The play The Families of Lockerbie was staged in the U.K. in 2010.
  • According to Variety, a feature film is in the works based on Dr. Jim Swire, a spokesman for the victims' relatives whose daughter was on the flight.

 

A website, www.VictimsofPanAmFlight103.org, was established by relatives and friends of the victims to keep the memories of their loved ones alive. In posts from family members, the tone ranges from sweet and nostalgic to angry and bitter.

The following poem was written by Ken Bissett before his death. His parents put it on his gravestone.

As I was walking along,
I looked up at the nighttime sky
I was passing under a tree,
But, rather than having the tree
Moving past the stationary sky,
I imagined that the night sky was moving;
pulled along by unseen chariots
With white horses
or strong-armed burly men
Or brilliant blue seagulls.
For a split second,
The sky was a huge blue tapestry;
Perforated with tiny holes;
Illuminated from above by some unseen light.

Two Libyan nationals were tried in the Netherlands, one of whom was convicted and imprisoned but released eight years later after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He died last year. Among the goals of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 site is to keep pushing for "the truth behind the bombing," which remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the United Kingdom.

Susan Soper is the author of ObitKit®, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she has written for Newsday and CNN, and was Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief." Find her on Google+.

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