From NIGHTLINE 21/12/1997

Transcript of THE KEEPERS part 2

The Keepers part 2

              Lockerbie, Scotland: Keepers of Memory
              and Love 

              Dec. 19, 1997

                            TED KOPPEL
              Nine years ago, Lockerbie, Scotland, became one of the
              most famous datelines in the world. It became quite
              literally the name of a disaster. As some of you may have
              heard last night, Pan Am and the US State Department
              did not cover themselves with glory. At a time when
              compassion and sensitivity were called for, there wasnít
              much. But the people of Lockerbie reacted with a
              breathtaking sense of humanity.
              When the remains of the victims were driven through the
              streets, townspeople lined up to pay a silent and dignified
              tribute. When US authorities said that the belongings of
              the victims could not be returned to their families because
              of the possibility of contamination, the women of
              Lockerbie washed and ironed every single piece of
              clothing that could be recovered. And as the first family
              members of the dead made the pilgrimage to see where
              their loved ones had died, the men and women of
              Lockerbie showed themselves to be in the very best
              sense their brothersí keepers.
              (VO) There are more sheep than people in Lockerbie. A
              quiet Scottish market town with nearly 4,000 residents.
              On the darkest night of the year, December 21st, 1988, at
              7, a terrorist bomb blew apart Pan Am Flight 103 in the
              skies over Lockerbie, killing a total of 270 people. Nine
              years later, a stained glass window with 21 flags
              representing the nations of those who perished on board
              Pan Am 103 sends light streaming into the town hall,
              which was once a mortuary. 

                      ALEX MACKELROY The tragedy of Lockerbie
              exposed that evil did not triumph.
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Close friends call Alex Mackelroy
              the fixer, a local official who worked quietly and
              steadfastly behind the scenes for years to help ease the
              suffering of victimsí families.
                   ALEX MACKELROY You could take the memory and
              show that their death will not have been in vain. Their
              spirit is protected in the fields and within the community of
              Lockerbie and they will always be remembered. They will
              not just be part of folklore. Theyíre in our hearts and will
              always be in our hearts. While each family may have lost
              one or two or sometimes more, the people of Lockerbie
              and those who were involved in the recovery, either short
              or longóterm, lost 270. And we carry the burden of
              protecting their spirit and their memory.
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Some carry another burden,
              witnessing the savage horror that could never be shown
              on television. Bill Parr (ph) is a local chemist with years of
              experience in search and rescue work. He worked as a
              volunteer virtually around the clock for days with his dogs
              Shepp (ph) and Donna. The first night, they found 20
                   BILL PARR Iíll never forget faces. There were some
              that were obviously asleep, unconscious at the time of
              the impact and others that were conscious. There were
              looks of horror. Some were very peaceful but I can still
              picture faces where thereís a look of disbelief.
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) His feelings stayed buried until
              Shepp died.
                   BILL PARR The day we lost Shepp, the whole impact
              of a very hectic nine months hit me. But within a couple of
              hours of having buried him, I just had to ship myself away.
              Well, I was on my own anyway. I just shipped myself
              away and cried for hours. Itís, I didnít know you could feel
              that way about an animal. But he was a friend, not just an
              animal. I think it was grief and maybe a lot of the pent up
              feelings that other people had let go after the crash and Iíd
              held on to them. I was supposedly, you laugh at it now,
              but I was supposedly the leader up to 40 dog handlers. A
              lot of them would come to me and shed their feelings. I
              found somebody I could talk to from the Samaritans and
              that helped a lot.
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Nine years later, Bill Parr does
              not feel that what he did in Lockerbie was particularly
                   BILL PARR You know, Iíve never really thought well I
              was my brotherís keeper. My carer, maybe not keeper. I
              think the folk in Lockerbie quite naturally said it is
              unremarkable. We just did what we wanted to do, what
              we felt it was necessary to do. We tried to treat other
              people how we would like to be treated.
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Hugh and Margaret Connellís
              sheep farm is nearly eight miles from Lockerbie. It is
              there that the body that fell farthest from the disaster
                   HUGH CONNELL It seemed unbelievable that up
              here amongst all the quietness and beauty of this area
              that we would be amongst so much horror. The first item
              we come across was the mail bags and various bags of
              mail beside the road and then as soon as we started
              walking into the field there was pieces of wreckage from
              the interior of the plane. Seats were all around and well, I
              think half the luggage from the first front of the plane
              landed right across here and up onto the hill. Then we
              knew as soon as we started finding so many pieces of
              luggage and seats it was just a matter of time before we
              come on a body. When we found him, he looked so
              young, we thought of him as a boy, really. Maybe he
              looked in his 20s. We never, it never entered into our
              head then that he was in his 40s. He was so fresh and
                   MARGARET CONNELL He looked so young, his hair
              was so dark, he was so slim and we thought goodness, a
              young man and we immediately thought of parents
              somewhere, maybe even a young wife. And it was quite a
              few months later before we really found out his name and
              for a long time we just called him our boy.
                   HUGH CONNELL Right away we seemed to love for
              him. He was a fellow human being and, you know, for
              some reason he belonged to us. We had connected with
              him. We had no idea who he was but yet we loved him
              because he was there and it was right from the start we
              felt a wonder what his name is, where he comes from.
              And we felt we would like to tell him, you know, that heís
              here somewhere nice. He didnít land in the midst of the
              wreckage or a burned up but he was lying, just lying there
              as if he had landed, been given to us. And we just
              seemed to have that love for him as soon as he arrived,
              as it were. (Commercial Break)
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Frank Chulaís body was found on
              Hugh and Margaret Connellís sheep farm 20 minutes
              after Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie. He looked so
              young, the Connells called him our boy. But, in fact, he
              was 45, an executive with the Chase Bank in London, the
              father of three, happily married to his high school
              sweetheart and headed home to New Jersey for
              Christmas. His daughter, Laurie Chula, was 19 and
              remembers getting a call.
                   LAURIE CHULA Iím not sure of the time. I think it was
              about three oíclock. I was due home at three thirty. My
              mother called me at work and my boss came over to me
              panic stricken saying your motherís on the phone.
              Somethingís wrong. I didnít think much of it. I knew my
              father was coming home. I just thought she was
              overreacting to something. And I picked up the phone and
              she said to me, she said there was a crash and I think it
              might have been your fatherís plane. So I just within, I
              worked about five minutes away, but it must have been
              30 seconds that I was in the door. And my mother was on
              the floor and I just, I honestly thought she was just
              overreacting. There was probably something that was
              going on.
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) Nevertheless, Laurie called her
              youngest sister Michelle at her high school.
                   MICHELLE CHULA I walked into the office and it was
              my sister and she said that there was a crash and we
              think it was dadís plane and you need to come home. And
              itís so funny cause itís so vivid to me remembering that
              walk from that phone to the room that I was in. And I
              knew, I donít know how I knew this, but I knew that my life
              would never be the same.
                   LAURIE CHULA We assumed my father was on the
              plane. My mother had his flight information, but I know for
              me there was a huge sense of disbelief. I mean there
              was, we had hundreds of people within hours in this
              house just walking in and out and hearing something and
              somehow relating to that this could be going on for us and
              I donít know how, but there were hundreds of people and
              every time the door opened Iíd just wait for my father to
              walk in. I just, I figured thatís what would happen.
                   MICHELLE CHULA I pictured that night my father
              walking in with his, he always did the carry on, you know,
              never checked any bags, wanted to be in and out really
              quickly. And I just imagined him walking in being like what
              is going on? Who are all these people, you know?
                   LAURIE CHULA Yeah.
                   MICHELLE CHULA You know, imagining he got on an
              early flight or he missed the plane or he was still in
              London. And when my brother came home it became
              very real because we were all in the house and we got a
              phone call I believe around 3 am from ...
                   LAURIE CHULA Heathrow Airport ...
                   MICHELLE CHULA Was it? Or Pan Am, I guess
                   LAURIE CHULA Yeah, Heathrow Airport.
                   MICHELLE CHULA Saying he had checked in and he
              was on the flight. And I remember that night very vividly
              because we all slept in the same room.
                   LAURIE CHULA We really, we clung to each other in
              a huge way and we, we were still in shock but we said to
              each other, we said, you know, this can tear us apart or
              this can bring us closer together. And we made a
              decision, we almost made a pact right there that this was
              going to bring us closer together because the alternative
              just was not appealing at all to us. You know, we were
              losing something huge but there was a lot we still had and
              I think immediately we recognized that. Whether we knew
              thatís what my father would have wanted or for whatever
              reason, we just, we recognized that immediately.
                   MICHELLE CHULA You know, we had presents
              wrapped under the Christmas tree for my father. My
              mother had signed every card ďfrom mom and dadĒ and it
              was a very, very difficult day. And I remember just being
              so angry at all the other families that could go home and
              could pretend that this was just a story that happened in
              town. But this was happening to us.
                   LAURIE CHULA I remember I returned, I felt the need
              to take care of things. I remember answering the phone. I
              remember sending pictures of my father to Scotland and
              medical records. I just, I needed to take charge somehow
              and my way was trying to deal with those details. I didnít
              want my mother to have to do it and I wanted to do
              something. And I also took on the task of returning my
              fatherís Christmas gifts. And I walked into that mall and I
              wanted to, I wanted someone to ask me why.
                   MICHELLE CHULA The only visuals that we had
              were television and newspaper and despite everyoneís
              desire for us not to watch I did. I was curious. I mean it
              was as if nothing could hurt me more so I just wanted to
              know. Thereís a strange curiosity that takes hold. And up
              till my first trip to Lockerbie all I had in my mind were the
              flames and were the cockpit picture that is everywhere.
              And thatís all I knew and thatís all I had visually. And I think
              for myself, I tried really hard not to think about what
              happened to my father.
                   LAURIE CHULA I couldnít imagine from those
              pictures on TV that there was much that we were going to
              get back, you know, physically. But I was consumed. I
              mean those were the nightmares. What happened? How
              did he get from here to there and did he feel it and did he
              know it? You know, where did he land? What did he look
              like? I wanted those details big time.
                   MICHELLE CHULA For us, for many years Lockerbie
              was a place of disaster, it was a place of tragedy and a
              place that we didnít want to go to and that the only reason
              we didnít want to go there was because it was frightening.
              We were afraid of what we were going to find and, you
              know, the answers that we were going to get. And so I
              think for many years it wasnít even an option to go.
              (Commercial Break)
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) It took the Chula family nearly
              four years to find the courage to go to Lockerbie. Cows
              turned the final miles into a comic crawl. It was not until
              the week before the family left for Scotland that they
              learned where Frank Chulaís body had fallenófar outside
              of Lockerbie on Minsca Farm. The day before this home
              video was made, more news. The Scottish couple
              wanted to meet them.
                   MICHELLE CHULA The hour or two that I met them
              was one of the most powerful moments of my life
              because Margaret came out of the house and she looked
              at me and she said that I looked exactly like my father.
              And Iíve never, I will never forget that moment because it
              just answered so many questions. I remember taking a
              picture of my father out and asking Margaret is this the
              person that you found? Is this what he looked like? And
              when she told me that it was, it was one of the most
              amazing moments of my life because he looked like him.
              Minsca Farm is one of the most beautiful places I have
              ever seen in my entire life and it seemed somewhat
              appropriate that my father died there and it seemed
              somewhat, you know, just perfect that he died looking at
              the most beautiful land Iíve ever seen. And it took so
              much of the tragedy away for us. It took so much of the
              pain and the questions and the wondering what really
              happened that night.
                   MARGARET CONNELL It just seemed unbelievable
              that at last these, this family was at our home, you know,
              and that now we could put a name to unknown faces and
              people that we had wanted to know about and yes, it did
              us all good.
                   MICHELLE CHULA It was amazing to, I know me,
              and Iím sure my mother and my brother that she walked
              very confidently and knew exactly where it was. And that
              just meant so much to me that they had saved that for us.
              And now thereís a beautiful, beautiful tree growing there
              and weíve been back a couple of times since then and
              when stepping there and seeing where my father, you
              know, went out of this world was a very powerful
              experience for his daughter. I think, you know, to know
              that I know exactly where it was and it was so beautiful
              and it was so beautiful to share it with Margaret, who had
              been there that night.
                   LAURIE CHULA Heís in a cemetery near us. I donít go
              there. Heís not there. When I go to this spot, I just feel my
              father. Itís a huge connection. Itís the only place where I
              feel that connection that when I actually went and we
              were all together, I felt like it was the first time the five of
              us were together since he had died. It just feels right. And
              meeting these people and seeing this place, it just, it
              feels, itís a home of sorts and itís sort of hard to explain,
              but itís such a powerful connection and a powerful feeling.
                   HUGH CONNELL It seems strange that we could
              have so much love for someone that we never knew. It
              may seem strange that we shed so many tears for
              someone that we never met in life. And we were so glad
              when they come to visit us, when the family, Marylou and
              Frank and Michelle come, it just seemed to complete the
              story. We never, the story would never be complete until
              we met them.
                   MICHELLE CHULA I always believed 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 and to know that it could have been very
              horrible for us, we could not have had these answers and
              we could not have met these people and to meet them
              and to know, as Hugh had said, he loved my father, he
              was a stranger but he loved him, it just gave me so much
              faith about humankind, especially because of the way that
              the crash happened. You know, it was a terrorist act and
              to go from that anger and to lose all faith in what this
              world is all about, and it was a regaining of that faith to
              meet these people who took my father in. And would, I
              really believe that they would have taken him in their
              house and let him sleep inside if they could have. And to
              know that, itís just, that is what unconditional love is and
              that just brought so much faith back into my life and so
              much hope about the world for me into my life again.
                   TED KOPPEL (VO) New life and friendships have
              emerged from the ashes and ruins of Pan Am 103. On
              December 21st, 1988, the world witnessed the ferocious
              power of hatred. But in the years that followed, few
              noticed the ferocious determination in the tiny town of
              Lockerbie to ensure that that hatred will never prevail.
                   ALEX MACKELROY Lockerbie as a community itself
              did not allow evil to triumph. They looked after their
              brothers and sisters. They were the keepers of their
              brothers and sisters. They continue to keep for their
              brothers and sisters, to keep their memory and keep their
              dignity and to protect their spirit.
                   TED KOPPEL And Iíll be back with a closing thought
              in a moment. (Commercial Break)
                   TED KOPPEL The people of Lockerbie have
              reaffirmed the great lesson that we should do unto others
              as we would have them do unto us, which is exactly what
              they did. They treated the dead with dignity and respect
              and they asked themselves what they could do to
              alleviate the suffering of the families. There is, it turns out,
              no greater gift than a personal act of kindness and even a
              seemingly small act can fill a very great need. So, with
              their washing and ironing and planting of trees, with their
              many kindnesses to strangers, the people of Lockerbie
              have, for a number of years now, taken a dreadful act that
              destroyed one holiday season for so many, and restored
              it to what it should be, for which we all owe them a debt of
              thanks. Thatís our report for tonight. Iím Ted Koppel in
              Washington. For all of us here at ABC News, good night. 

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

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