From NIGHTLINE 21/12/1997

Transcript of THE KEEPERS part 1


The Keepers, Part I 

              Terrorist Bombing Inspires Love and
              Kindness 

              Dec. 18, 1997

                            TED KOPPEL
              The world has found a variety of ways of living and
              dealing with the aftermath of Pan Am 103. Two Libyan nationals are still being sought in connection with planting the bomb that blew that 747 jet liner out of the sky nine years ago. Muammar Qaddafiís refusal to permit those two men to be extradited from Libya has resulted in a
United Nations ban on arms sales to and air links with Libya. There are now several activist groups founded and run by
family members of those who died in the crash. They are variously motivated by a search for mutual support, legal
              compensation, justice, even retribution.
              These groups, in turn, have served as models for families
              left behind by other disasters -- the Oklahoma City
              bombing, the ValuJet crash and the crash of TWA Flight
              800.
              Several months ago, though, freelance producer Laura
              Palmer (ph) came to us with another barely noticed
              consequence of the Pan Am 103 tragedy. It had to do with
              the people of Lockerbie, Scotland. It was on the town of
              Lockerbie that the wreckage of the plane, its 259
              passengers and crew, descended. It was in Lockerbie
              that 11 Scots also lost their lives. What has been so
              remarkable about the people of Lockerbie is the
              generosity of spirit that they have shown toward the
              memories of those who died and the sweet kindnesses
              that they have shown toward their families.
              Most of those who died that night were strangers, but the
              townspeople of Lockerbie have truly been their brotherís
              keepers.
              (VO) Alexander Lowenstein (ph) was brimming with life.
              Surfing was a passion and a thrill, but it was the solitude
              of the sea that sustained him. Alexi was popular with his
              friends, who remember him as kind, extroverted and
              funny. He was adored by his parents, Peter and Susa
              Lowenstein (ph), and by his brother, Lucas (ph). The 21 -
              year - old Syracuse University student had completed a
              semester in London and was heading home to New
              Jersey when he boarded Pan Am 103. 

                      SUSA LOWENSTEIN I remember going to a radio
              and turning it on and I just remember hearing Pan Am 103
              was last seen in a fireball over Lockerbie, Scotland. And I
              remember doubling over knowing instantly, I knew
              immediately that Alexander was dead. And there was this
              rush that I trulyóI cannot put it into words. It wasóthis
              was the end. Life was sucked out of me. I was so
              overwhelmed byóby this part, this life of me having been
              gone. Such goodness, so much time, so much love and
              nurturing in a moment. I knew nothing would ever be the
              same again. Everything I knew and loved would never be
              the same again.
                   Peter, on his way home from the bank turned on the
              radio and heard the exact same thing that I had heard.
              The difference was that Peter had hope. We started
              making phone calls to Pan Am, to the travel agent,
              anywhere. And, of course, we didnít get anywhere. Pan
              Am constantly put us on hold and we listened to
              Christmas carols, God, for hours, absolutely for hours.
              And friends started coming because they had heard. We
              turned on the television, of course, to see what was
              happening because we couldnít, we didnít get any news,
              any information, nothing. And at some point we saw
              names scrolling on television and Alexander was one of
              those names and so thatís how we basically got
              confirmed that Alexander was on that flight.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) In those first shattering days, the
              kindness expressed by the people of Lockerbie made a
              difference.
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN We had seen on television how
              the trucks with the coffins left the streets of Lockerbie,
              where the Lockerbie people stood in silence throwing
              bundles of flowers toward the trucks, paying their last
              respects to the victims leaving. I felt such gratitude, such
              gratitude that there were people where my dead son was
              who cared, who were gentle, who had compassion and
              love.
                   Well, the day came when we went to Kennedy Airport.
              We were told to go to a particular section. As it turns out,
              it was the livestock quarantine section where they had
              livestock in quarantine. And we thought this canít be the
              place, but it turned out it was the place. Each coffin had a
              beautiful bouquet of flowers on top, clearly put on by the
              Scottish people. And meanwhile there was absolutely no
              representative there from anyone, not from Pan Am, not
              from the government, the State Department, no one. It
              was just the workers on the forklifts with the hard hats
              and the relatives and the funeral home people. And I
              remember how the forklift would go in, bring out another
              coffin, bring out another coffin. And we finally got our
              coffin and it was placed on the floor in front of us and it
              looked so small. It just looked so small.
                   And unfortunately, we were told not to view the body
              and Iím so sorry that we listened. What would I give just
              to hold him one ó just to hold him one more time. This
              was my son. I wouldnít have cared in what shape he
              would have been.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) During those first few months,
              what little solace she found came once again from the
              kindness of the people of Lockerbie. When American
              officials told the Scots that clothing from the wreckage
              could not be returned because it was, in their words,
              contaminated, the women of Lockerbie volunteered to
              wash and iron it and more than 11,000 items of clothing
              were meticulously cleaned and sent back.
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN Everything that was found
              came back cleaned and obviously thoughtfully and
              carefully wrapped and that was such comfort, it was such
              comfort.
                   
                   2ND LOCKERBIE RESIDENT It was a very
              emotional experience. Initially the first day I didnít think I
              could go back. I thought I was strong enough and would
              be able to cope. I knew what I was going into. I knew the
              situation, but it still, when you picked up something,
              especially if it was a babyís, a small article, there was lots
              of tears. And then I said no, Iím going back. And I think
              thatís how I coped with what would come through plus I
              knew that somebody somewhere wanted what we had
              there and it had to go back to, well, not the owner but the
              family.
                   
                   1ST LOCKERBIE RESIDENT Working in the laundry
              gave me this feeling of, that I was getting, that I wanted to
              give love to, put all my love into this, this job and maybe
              make the people realize how much that was what we
              were all feeling over here. It also made me very
              conscious that love is the, was what was meant to come
              out of this, this disaster. That it had, that was the love to
              come out of it and that the only way to overcome the evil
              and the nastiness in this world is through love and to look
              at everybody through love. (Commercial Break)
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN To this day, I go back to
              Lockerbie and it might almost be like a pilgrimage, but I go
              back to the spot where Alexander fell. Iím certainly not a
              religious person but I felt a stillness and a peace and a
              general holiness in the green hills of Lockerbie. A few
              years ago, I built a kerin (ph) right on that spot and each
              time I go I bring some items and put them inside the kerin.
              And today I brought sand from his favorite surfing beach
              and I brought some beach glass and a little sea star and
              a little surfer. When Iím at his kerin I sort of have an inside
              quiet conversation with him and we seem to laugh a lot.
              And then I climb the hills and I climb the fortress thatís not
              far beyond his kerin and I look down at his kerin and I look
              down at the countryside and truly the most prominent
              feeling I have is peace.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) But never far from the peace
              Susa Lowenstein finds in Lockerbie is the pain.
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN But thereís something so awful,
              awful final to see your childís name engraved in stone in a
              memorial for dead people. It just seems unreal, the wrong
              place for all of them. Itís very important not to forget that
              not one of them, not one of them should have been here
              engraved in stone. All I can do is come here and clean
              this plaque. Thereís so little left to do for him. He was a
              beautiful kid and a rose is something very beautiful so I
              always like to leave one red rose behind for him.
                   
                   
                   GERI BUSER Susan made this for Alexander.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) This is Geri Buserís (ph) fifth trip
              to Lockerbie. Her loss is nearly incomprehensible. Her
              husband, Warren, and daughter, Lorraine, pregnant with
              her second child, were sitting together with her son,
              Michael, on Pan Am 103. Kenny, the youngest of her
              three surviving children, came to Lockerbie for the first
              time this fall with his fiancee. He brought big brother
              Michael, whose body was never recovered, something
              from home.
                   
                   
                   GERI BUSER I figured I couldnít believe all three of
              them went and then I donít have Michaelís body and that I
              canít live with. Thatís hard. It sounds crazy looking for
              your sonís body, doesnít it?
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) There is another point of
              pilgrimage for Geri Buser, the place in Rosebank Terrace
              where the bodies of her husband and daughter landed on
              Ella Ramsdenís (ph) house. Until this fall, the two women
              had never met.
                   
                   
                   GERI BUSER Oh, here she is finally. How are you
              sweetheart?
                   This is Ella. I just met her today after almost nine
              years and it was my husbandís body and my daughterís
              body that was found in her house and Iíve been dying to
              meet her and we finally did. And sheís a doll. So now
              when I come over again, I will be bothering Ella.
                   
                   
                   ELLA RAMSDEN Yeah.
                   
                   
                   GERI BUSER Iíll go to her house and get some tea
              and sherry.
                   
                   
                   ELLA RAMSDEN Tea and sherry, yes. Youíll
              (unintelligible)?
                   
                   
                   GERI BUSER I sure will. Isnít she a sweetheart? Itís
              the beginning of a new friendship.
                   
                   
                   ELLA RAMSDEN Yes.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Geri Buser and sculptor Susa
              Lowenstein share another lasting connection. Buser is
              portrayed in Lowensteinís haunting work, Dark Eulogy.
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN This figure here is very dear to
              me. This is a lady for whom I have tremendous love and
              respect and regard. She not only lost her husband but
              she also lost her son and her pregnant daughter. And I do
              not know how she finds the strength to go on with her life.
              She does. She smiles. She can laugh and I do not know
              how she does it after what she has been through. Sheís a
              woman I love very much. (Commercial Break)
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN The studio is a place that in a
              very wholesome way engulfs so much of my life. I
              experienced my greatest sadness in this room, learning
              of Alexanderís death. This is where I create and this is
              where I am just me. So this is the best place for me and
              this is where I spend most of my time.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) And it was in her studio that Susa
              Lowenstein decided to heal.
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN It was interesting for me to
              remember the time when my choice making came,
              because you really do have a lot of choices. I could be
              raging, bitter, hateful. I have all right to be. But it would not
              shed the right light on Alexander. Itís not what he was. I
              prefer to think that if people look at me that they
              remember Alexander the way he was. I donít think they
              would remember Alexander properly if I was a wasted,
              broken human being. So my tribute to him is my life the
              way I live it and of, course, my work in Dark Eulogy.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Dark Eulogy portrays grief from
              the inside out. Lowenstein invited anyone who lost
              someone on Pan Am 103 to come to her studio and
              recreate the moment they got the news. Only women
              have responded so far. She bases each sculpture on a
              photograph taken as their bodies fall back into that
              moment of raw anguish. Over nine years she has created
              45 figures and has photographs for 55 more. Before
              finishing each sculpture, she places a personal memento
              behind the heart.
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN What you see here comes
              from hate, hate that individuals harbor, that they have to
              strike out against the most innocent. And this is whatís
              left behindóchanged lives forever. Because I can assure
              you that some of these individuals are broken for life. This
              portrayal really reminds us of the ones weíve lost and
              there is an enormous amount of love connected with
              each one that weíve lost. And somehow that feeling of
              love and peace, to me, is stronger than all the other ones.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) For Susa Lowenstein, healing
              began as a choice, became a journey and will become a
              gift when she donates Dark Eulogy to a public place for
              permanent exhibition.
                   
                   
                   SUSA LOWENSTEIN Iím glad to know that certainly
              the sculpture will last my lifetime and Iím looking forward
              to seeing Alexander when the time comes and I
              somehow think I will. What I fantasize about is saying to
              him, so, what do you think? Do you think I did all right?
              And I hope by God heíll say, you did just fine, Mom.
              (Commercial Break)
                   
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Father Patrick Kegans (ph) was
              the Catholic priest in Lockerbie at the time of the disaster.
              For years, he helped people grieve and go on.
                   
                   
                   FATHER PATRICK KEGANS Theyíve built
              memorials of stone but the real memorial to those who
              have died is our willingness to live our lives joyfully,
              because thatís how they want us to live. They donít want
              us to get all sad and mournful and grieving every day and
              go around dressed in black and weeping all the time.
              They want us to be alive and being alive and living our
              lives to the full and caring for each other and being full in
              life is the best memorial we can ever give to them.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) And what has helped some Pan
              Am 103 families find meaning again in their lives is the
              magnitude of the kindness theyíve felt from the people of
              Lockerbie.
                   
                   3RD LOCKERBIE RESIDENT It seems strange that
              we could have so much love for someone that we never
              knew. It may seem strange that we shared so many tears
              for someone that we never met in life.
                   
                   DAUGHTER OF CRASH VICTIM I always believe
              before this happened that I knew what unconditional love
              was. I donít think I really knew until I met Margaret and
              Hugh, because they didnít know my father and they loved
              him and I felt that right away.
                   
                   
                   TED KOPPEL That story tomorrow night, when ďThe
              KeepersĒ continues.
                   Iím Ted Koppel. For all of us here at ABC News, good
              night. 



To see the transcript of THE KEEPERS part two press here !

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