-- When Pan Am Flight 103 went down over Lockerbie, Scotland, 270 families immediately lost a huge part of themselves. They were robbed of one of their own, for reasons they still cannot comprehend. They were left helpless with nowhere to turn. That was until a group of families formed Victims of Pan Am Flight 103.
Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 was originally formed to be a pro-active organization, according to President George Williams. It was meant to find out who was responsible for the bombing and to work to achieve a just punishment for those accountable for it.
There were three original parts of the group, said Robert Hunt, a member of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103.One was to make sure that they found the people who were to blame and to make sure that Pan Am was punished for their lack of security. The airline had a ten dollar surcharge for security that was not used for its intended purpose, Hunt said.
Second was to have a memorial built in Arlington Cemetery. The memorial was donated by Scotland and contains 270 stones, one for each victim.
Third was to charge and find guilty the parties responsible for the crime."We lobbied the United Nations and the United States Ambassador to the UN to put and increase sanctions on Libya," Williams said.The government responded, Hunt said.
"Since the two Libyans were indicted in 1991, the U.S. and UN put an embargo on Libya persuading Muammar Gaddafi to give up the suspects, " Hunt said. "I don't think it will ever happen though."
The Libyans were just the people who pulled the trigger; there were other people involved, Hunt said.General intelligence reports say that Iran, in retaliation for the US downing of a Iranian passenger jet, was also partially responsible for the attack, Hunt said."I'm hoping that the Libyans come to trial and try to save their own necks by pointing fingers," Hunt said.
The organization does not hate the people that are citizens of the nations responsible, Williams said."We do our best to dispel any notion that we hate all Arabs," he said."We know that (the bombing) was done by a couple of maniacs. We don' t hate people for what one or two of their people did."
The organization also pushed for better security and safety procedures worldwide, Williams said. The organization lobbied and went to all 100 senators and 435 congressmen for safer airlines. Their efforts were instrumental in the passing of the Airline Safety and Security Act of 1990, Williams said.The act required such procedures as matching of bags with the people on the plane and having bomb detection devices in airports, said Hunt.
A lot of the recommendations, however, did not go into effect until the Trans World Airlines 800 crash in 1996, Hunt said."The airlines were responsible for most of the changes, and some of them just did not want to spend the money to implement them," Hunt said. "The organization was instrumental in forcing the Federal Aviation Association to build and operate in Atlantic City a research center, " Williams said.
"They research bomb detection devices, a multi-million dollar project."
Eventually it became obvious that the bombing put the families through a lot of mental and social anguish. The organization soon held counseling sessions for its members. Originally, the group met once a month, Williams said. Now, they have quarterly meetings. The counseling and the unity of the group has been instrumental for the families being able to cope with their pain.
"We all had each other to lean on, and the support was incredible, " Lowenstein said. "We've done so much."
Most of the members make the meetings because there is a concentration of people in the Northeast, said Robert Monetti, a member of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, who lost his son, Syracuse University student Robert Monetti. Some of the most active members lost SU students as a result of the crash, Williams said.
Williams lost his son, First Lieutenant of the United States Army, George W. Williams, 24 at the time, to the bombing.His nickname was Geordie, a Welsh and Scottish equivalent of George. Geordie was serving the United States in West Germany during the Cold War. "He was coming home for Christmas leave and missed the plane that he was supposed to catch and took (Flight 103)."
Monetti lost his son Richard P. Monetti, a junior SU student at the time. He was involved in Students Against Drunk Drivers and was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He was dually enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, according to the Syracuse Record.
The pain of losing his son does not get any easier each year, Monetti said."For some reason it has gotten harder this year (for the 10th anniversary), " Monetti said.
Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 has been a powerful lobbying and support group.If people band together even a small group can accomplish a great deal, Hunt said.
"Ten years ago, we didn't know each other, but we've gotten together and we've gotten things done."