Today is the ten year anniversary of the crash of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. 259 passengers and crew died on this day together with 11 citizens of Lockerbie. The world commemorates their death today by various services in Scotland, Britain, the USA and elsewhere. Realatives of the victims have been looking for answers to why Pan Am 103 had to crash and who can be held responsible.
Pan Am 103 - The Lockerbie Tragedy
1988-1998 21/12/1998 *** updated: 14/01/1998 This page will keep you informed about the various commemoration events that have taken place on the 10 year anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. Read the news and see the pictures. For some files you need a copy of REAL AUDIO/VIDEO-PLAYER! See end of page for events before the 21st December. Lockerbie Crisis Discussion Room - your opinion !
Come and join the discussion: Have you anything to say about the Lockerbie Tragedy ? And should Libya extradite the two suspects for trial ? Who was behind the crash of Pan Am 103 ?
The 10 year search: in commemoration of a crime
Lockerbie gathered bereaved relatives and friends to its bosom Monday, 10 years after the bomb which blew Pan Am flight 103 out of the skies and crashing on to this small Scottish town. Some 50 foreign visitors were expected to join local people in a wreath-laying and church service for the 270 people who lost their lives in one of the world's worst air disasters -- the youngest two months old, the eldest 82. Similar services were being held in London and the United States.
``My family's expanded at the expense of the death of my brother. These people, the people of Pan Am 103, have become my family,'' said American Bert Ammerman, who lost his brother Tom. ``On the 10th anniversary this is where I wanted to be. It brings back the devastation, horror and destruction, but something positive has also come out of it.''
Outsiders have paid tribute to the support and compassion of the tight-knit Lockerbie community, which lost 11 people killed on the ground as wreckage and bodies showered down on the upland town of less than 4,000 people.
A decade after Christmas celebrations were wiped out by the crash, festive lights are hanging again in Lockerbie's main street. But the mood in the town -- set in sheep country with a little light industry -- is reflective and somber.
Townspeople pulled together in the
days, weeks and months after the crash, and even now they remain fiercely
protective of those touched by the tragedy who wish to remain out of the
media's glare. Lockerbie residents provided unstinting support for searchers
picking through the grim debris and embraced the hundreds of grief-stricken
relatives and friends of the dead.
Personal belongings scattered far and wide across the rolling southern Scottish countryside were painstakingly identified, cleaned and returned to bereaved families. Deep and lasting friendships were made.
It is Lockerbie's townspeople who have organized Monday's main remembrance ceremonies.
At around 1500 GMT Britain's Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth, was to lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dryfesdale Cemetery, just outside Lockerbie, where a simple, polished stone memorial catalogs the dead. Four hours later an inter-faith service was to be held in Dryfesdale church, coinciding with three similar events at London's Westminster Abbey, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and at Syracuse University in New York state.
Thirty-five American students were
among the Lockerbie dead, 25 of them enrolled at Syracuse. President Clinton
was expected to attend the Arlington service, underscoring the fact that
189 of the victims were American.
On the tenth anniversary, the people of Lockerbie put on a brave face for the hundreds of media and visitors that descended on the town, reminded of the months following the disaster when the hamlet’s population tripled to nearly 10,000. Ten years after the crash, the town still struggles to get on with life.
At the beginning of the year, Lockerbie convened a town meeting that drew 70 participants — somewhat of a record for the small market town in southern Scotland. Asked what the citizens wanted to do for the tenth anniversary, the vote was unanimous: nothing.
The town counselors knew that was impossible, but they got the message. In preparation for the media onslaught, the town hall drew up a list of residents who would talk to reporters — a subtle hint for journalist not to go knocking on doors. Most on the list worked for the town government.
“We’ve had eight years of normality.
Once we got past the first anniversary, the scars began to heal,” Marjorie
McQueen, a Lockerbie town counselor told MSNBC. “It’s only in the last
month that the abnormality’s returned for the tenth anniversary.”
For that reason, the town elders decided to take a proactive approach. “We’ve tried to protect the town,” McQueen said. After the last bits of wreckage and bodies were removed in the months after the crash in 1989, the town offered counseling for victims’ families and townspeople struck by the tragedy. “But that stopped after a year or so,” McQueen said. “People were ready to heal in their own ways.”
LOCKERBIE, Scotland, - A grieving American made a final pilgrimage on Sunday to the icy Scottish hillside where his brother died 10 years ago in the Lockerbie air disaster. Over the past decade, New Jersey high school principal Bert Ammerman has met with two U.S. presidents, their secretaries of state and attorneys general and countless members of Congress.
They enacted the law Ammerman wanted and heeded his calls for a special investigative commission. He gets the kind of access corporate lobbyists only dream of -- because he lived through a personal nightmare.
Ten years ago today, terrorists blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing Ammerman's brother, Tom, and 269 others. His body was found later on the lonely hillside at Tundergarth, four miles from the town where the aircraft's nose cone fell. Now Mr Ammerman feels able to bring his daughters Christine, 21, and Megan, 19, to Scotland to see the town's memorials to the dead.
With dignity and deep sorrow, Bert Ammerman made a personal ``journey of remembrance'' around the small Scottish town where Pan Am flight 103 crashed to earth after being blown up on the night of December 21, 1998. ``Ten years is a symbolic mark,'' Ammerman told reporters in the Garden of Remembrance at Lockerbie's Dryfesdale Cemetery, where a simple stone memorial catalogues the dead.
``For me it's time to say goodbye. I will not be back for any political issue.''
Around 50 foreign visitors are expected in Lockerbie on Monday for a formal wreath-laying and church service honouring the 259 air passengers and crew and 11 local residents who lost their lives.
But Ammerman, from River Vale, New Jersey, wanted to make his own, personal pilgrimage on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the bombing. On a bright, freezing winter day he laid a bouquet of flowers at the Dryfesdale memorial, stood briefly in prayer and then gently ran his finger over the name of his brother, Tom, carved in the polished grey stone.
Asked what words he had mouthed, he replied: ``I said, 'We've done the best we can, but we haven't finished yet. We have to have this trial.''' ``Closure for me will be when these two (suspects) are handed over for trial,'' Ammerman said. ``It's not whether they're found guilty or innocent. For me it's the evidence --I've got to hear the evidence.''
From Dryfesdale, Ammerman moved across town to Sherwood Crescent, where the exploding fuel tanks of the Pan Am clipper turned a row of homes into a mass of boiling flame.
Much of the street has been rebuilt but the site of the main impact has become a manicured garden of remembrance. A mossy stone memorial there is hewn from the same rock as the Lockerbie memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. ``This was a crater -- this is where the people of Lockerbie were killed,'' said Ammerman, who stayed in what remained of the street for nine days, waiting for his brother to be found.
He recalled police clearing remains from the site in plastic bags -- white for aircraft debris, black for human remains. ``There was the aura of a war zone, the smell of a war zone.'' Ammerman's final stop was the most emotional: a trip into the rolling, sheep-dotted hills high above Lockerbie where his brother's body was finally recovered.
His eyes brimming, he walked alone into the little memorial room beside the church in the tiny hamlet of Tundergarth, where the names of the dead are recorded in a book. He had been here just once since the crash and said this would be his last visit. ``It's a very special moment for me.''
Then he strode with a knot of close friends up the hillside, towards the spot where Tom Ammerman fell. In the memorial room, a message on his bouquet read: ``In loving memory of a wonderful brother.''
Under a clear blue sky on the last Sunday before Christmas, Lockerbie did not look like a town overshadowed by tragedy. A cluster of about 20 reporters and photographers opposite Holy Trinity church attracted a few curious glances.
But Lockerbie is tired of the media and the grim notoriety the disaster has brought it.
After identifying his brother, Mr Ammerman hoped never to come back to Lockerbie. "I wanted always to remember the carnage, the smell of gasoline, the debris and the bodies."
But as a leading representative of the American victims' families, he has made a succession of visits in the campaign for answers to the tragedy.
Along the way, he has made friends and seen the town's physical scars heal over. Sherwood Crescent, where Lockerbie's victims were incinerated in their homes, has been rebuilt and looks no different to any other quiet, residential street. He addressed a private service at the town's Roman Catholic church on Sunday morning, the first of a series of events to mark the bombing and remember its victims.
He told the congregation at the Holy Trinity Church: "I wish I had never met any of you because if I hadn't my brother would still be alive."
His voice choking, Mr Ammerman told the congregation at Holy Trinity church of the Christmas Eve a decade ago when he sat in the same pew, "trying to figure out what in God's name was happening". After the service Mr Ammerman, accompanied by his two daughters, said thanking the people of Lockerbie personally had been the most important thing he had done since the bombing.
He said: "The people of Scotland and Lockerbie have always made us feel welcome." ``They opened their arms and their hearts to us,'' said Greta Gold from New York, who lost her 25-year-old nephew. ''Everyone who's come here has gone away loving many people.''
The husband of Queen Elizabeth II laid a wreath in this tiny town's cemetery today to mark the 10th anniversary of the crash of Pan Am Flight 103, felled by a bomb hidden in a suitcase. Then bereaved relatives wearing sprigs of white heather filed past the memorial to lay their own wreaths, many of them touching the name of a loved-one carved in the grey stone. More wreaths and bouquets lay nearby on the frozen ground.
Before Prince Philip's symbolic gesture to honor the 270 dead, Lockerbie's Roman Catholic priest at the time of the crash spoke to about 200 relatives of the victims and townspeople about the ``ticking bomb'' of justice.
In a powerful speech at a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of one of the world's worst air disasters, Father Pat Keegans addressed his words directly to three Lockerbie children who were killed when parts of the New York-bound jumbo jet plowed into their home.
``Ten years ago, for you and for us, a bomb was ticking,'' the Rev. Pat Keegans said. ``Be assured of this - there is another bomb ticking - the irresistible bomb of justice and truth.'' ``Be certain that our wreath-laying today is not a symbolic gesture. It is a declaration that we will not rest until we have justice and truth, until all who are responsible for your deaths are held accountable,'' he said.
Father Keegans added: "Turn back the clock. Let it be seven o'clock on the evening of December 21, 1988. Let Pan Am flight 103 continue to its destination in New York. "Then you and I can live our lives to a different scenario."
Father Keegans paid homage to "270 unique precious human beings" including three children from the town who died in the tragedy. He said: "You know that I said that we shall leave no stone unturned until all responsible for your murder were brought to justice and that will happen."
He also paid tribute to the people of Lockerbie and the kindness they showed to the bereaved on both sides of the Atlantic. Scottish bagpipe music and the reading of all 270 names has been carried out both in Lockerbie, in London at Westminster Abbey and at Arlington National Cemetary in the USA.
"The love which they showed to others
from the beginning is an example to the whole world," he said.
The UK and the US have vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the Lockerbie bombing as the two nations remember the 270 victims from Pan Am flight 103 and the small Scottish community below. Messages from Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bill Clinton were read as 10th anniversary services proceeded in Lockerbie, London, Washington and Syracuse, the US home of 35 of the dead.
Mr Blair's message, read out in Lockerbie by Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar, recalled "a calamity made and perpetrated by men" which had imprinted itself on the public mind. It read: "Today, as we remember those who died and those who mourn, we renew our resolve to establish the truth and to ensure that justice is done."
Under a hazy gray sky, with the whine of jets taking off from nearby Reagan National Airport occasionally drowning out speakers, the families of the 270 victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing gathered in Arlington National Cemetery to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
The US president's message read: "This cowardly act of terrorism outraged not only the people of the United States and Great Britain, but also civilised men and women everywhere." President Clinton paid tribute to relatives and Lockerbie towns people who turned sorrow into "a source of strength for all who stand against terror".
He said: "We mark this milestone at the time of the time of the winter solstice, when the sun begins to reclaim the day. "It is a fitting moment to note your extraordinary determination to bring light forth from this tragedy." Then he turned back to consoling the families.``Although 10 years or 20 or 30 or 50 may never be long enough for the sorrow to be frayed, we pray it will not be long before the wait for justice and resolution is over,'' said Clinton, making one of his first public appearances since his impeachment Saturday. ``None of us will be safe as long as there is a single place on our planet where terrorists can find sanctuary,'' he said. Afterward, Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton bowed heads at the cairn, and met with families for several minutes.
As President Clinton offered soothing words to the families of those lost to the terrorist bomb aboard Pan Am 103 10 years ago Monday, one man stood up and shouted, ``Bomb Gadhafi, Mr. President, please!'' Then Dan Tobin sat down and said nothing more, the pain of his brother' s death as fresh today as it was 10 years ago. Mark Lawrence Tobin was 21 at the time, one of the 35 Syracuse University students returning from study abroad. ``It doesn't seem to make any sense at all that my brother gets killed for being American and flying home,'' said Tobin, 28, of Hempstead, N.Y., after the ceremony ended. ``My brother was one of the innocent people.''
After the ceremony, at the back of the parking lot where families and friends sat in folding chairs, two conservatively dressed men quietly unfurled a protest sign:``One bomb (plus sign) 2 indictments (plus) 3 presidents (plus) 10 years (equals) Nothing!''
``It was great to come to something like this and have Clinton be here, but it's frustrating to be 10 years out and not have anything. Families want justice,'' said Pete Sullivan, of Reading, Pa., whose college roommate, John Ahern, died in the explosion. Ahern, a 1980 graduate of the University of Dayton in Ohio, had been coming home for Christmas from a job in London. Ahern's sisters brought their children, many too young to have known their uncle. ``I'm glad he doesn't remember,'' Bonnie Ahern O'Connor, of Long Island, said of her oldest son, now 12. ``It's very upsetting. We still miss him.''
Colleen Ahern Graziano, also of Long Island, rocked 10-month-old Ryan in his stroller. Her oldest, Kristen, 12, managed to get the president' s autograph on her memorial program. ``Everything was so moving,'' said Graziano, who has visited the crash site in Lockerbie. ``When the president mentioned the average age on the flight -- I was thinking, John was 26, and the average person was 27.'' Under gray skies, relatives laid flowers near the cemetery's stone memorial to the victims. Bells tolled for two minutes, and relatives took turns reading the names of those killed.
``It's always difficult, emotionally,'' said John Cory, an engineer from Shrewsbury, Mass., whose son, Scott - one of 35 Syracuse University students returning from a semester abroad - was on the flight. The Cory family lived in Old Lyme, Conn., at the time of the bombing. '`We need to do this. We need to remember our loved ones,'' Cory said. ``We don't want to forget them. We want to keep the general public aware that terrorism is a continuing threat.''
The Queen also sent her message. It read: "Our thoughts and prayers today are with the families and friends of those 270 people, from so many countries, whose lives were tragically taken in the Lockerbie bombing 10 years ago. "Time cannot erase their memory."
In separate events, British relatives gathered for a service in Westminster Abbey. Americans came together at Arlington national cemetery in Washington where President Clinton was present, and many more gathered at Syracuse University.
All services held a one minute silence at 1900 GMT, the moment the Boeing 747 was destroyed by a bomb six miles above the Scottish town. At Westminster Abbey, the names of all 270 victims were read out and a candle lit in their memory.
Swire, whose daughter was killed in the tragedy, read a prayer to the congregation.
She said families and friends continued to mourn "individuals torn from
a temporal world by a terrorist bomb to join the eternal world far, far
sooner than fullness of life would warrant".
Mark Zaid, lawyer for some of the relatives and co-host at the Georgetown conference, used the 10th anniversary for a direct chat with people about Lockerbie on the 21st December at a live session on the website of Washington Post:
35 students from Syracuse University lost their lives when Pan Am 103 crashed over Lockerbie in 1988. This year Syracuse University had several commeoration events:
Remembrance Week: October 19-23, 1998
Ten Days of Remembrance: December 11-21, 1998
Pan Am 103/Lockerbie commemoration TV programmes 1998 on BBC and other UK stations
It is no surprise that various
international TV stations all featured special commemoration programmes
as the date of 21st December drew closer. Major stations on both side of
the Atlantic took a look-back on the past 10 years of investigation, interview
relatives and other people involved into the Lockerbie Crisis, looking
forward to a possible upcoming trial and possible future events.
Glasgow Museum of Transport,
Lockerbie Display: October 28-on, 1998-9
The first part of a larger
exhibition on Transport Disasters, featuring Jim Swires bomb attrap, pictures,
recorded voices and exhibition items from various fields of the disaster.
Place:1 Bunhouse Road, Glasgow
Phone: (+44) 0141 287 2749