From NIGHTLINE 21/12/1997
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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