The Lockerbie Experience

For the people of Lockerbie, the crash of Pan Am was a horrible, sudden disaster, striking the small town with violence and making the rest of us for ever remember the name of a small Scottish city, we elsewise never would have heard of during our lifetime. 11 inhabitants of Lockerbie lost their lives in the disaster. How does such a small community cope with having a major jet-plane crashing right in to the middle of their dull existence ?

I have gathered some information from the Lockerbie-citizens themselves, telling about the darkest day of local history and the even darker days after. Some stories are responses sent  by e-mail from Lockerbie-citizens, other are secondhand, but yet reliable older stories from newspaper-articles or books:

  • From USA TODAY: on the scene of terror in Lockerbie 22/12/1988
  • Interviews with Lockerbie eye-witnesses, TIMES UNION 23/12/1988
  • From ARIZONA REPUBLIC: "Nobody wants to buy Christmas wrapping paper" 25/12/1988
  • From NEWSDAY: a joyless christmas in Lockerbie 1988 26/12/1988
  • From THE ATLANTA JOURNAL: Police Sergeant Ian McDowall's Lockerbie experience 24/08/1997
  • British PrinceAndrew as the 2nd Lockerbie Disaster!

  • Where in the world is Lockerbie ?

  • Constable recounts crash of shattered Flight 103

    An orange fireball dropped from the night sky and exploded ``like a miniature atomic bomb'' over the town of Lockerbie, a policeman recalled today as he recounted the crash of Pan Am Flight 103.

    ``The debris ran like a carpet across the countryside, a trail of devastation and bodies,'' said Constable Michael Stryjewski. Stryjewski was the first witness to testify at the public inquiry that began Monday October 1st 1990 into the terrorist bombing of the Boeing 747 on Dec. 21, 1988. Stryjewski said he heard jet engines and saw ``an orange glow in the sky'' from the window of his home that overlooks the town of 3,000.

    ``The glow appeared to be growing larger and coming downward,'' he said. ``The next thing I saw were shapes falling to the ground somewhere in Lockerbie. . . . There was a horrendous noise, an explosion . . . like a miniature atomic bomb, and a mushroom of cloud and flame went upward. . . . I'd say it reached 1,000 feet.'' The policeman said he could see houses on fire and tried to make an emergency call but his phone was dead.

    October 4, 1990 /The Baltimore Sun (US)

    Many Lockerbie citizens helped cleaning up the crash site and aiding relatives, guarding found body parts or crash scrapnel, keeping off the press etc. Everyone, from the official police and fire fighters to the town hall people and ordinary citizens joined in a traumatic battle to rebuild their society, that had been scattered by the sudden crash of pan Am 103 3 days before christmas. Some of the rescue workers, both professionals and volunteers, had to cope with personal loss as well as with the trauma of working with a crashed 747. Their psychological state of mind was attended to by dr. Turnbull.
  • Dr. Turnbull and the trauma of the Lockerbie rescue teams
  • Lockerbie citizen remembers the search for bodies 
  • Kids from Lockerbie on their bikes viewing wreckage: christmas 1988Lockerbie...a media-version and a local-version of the crash

    "The crash was covered decently and modestly by the medias. The Lockerbie-people saw and felt a somehow stronger version: I am very familiar with Lockerbie, both the locality and the circumstances surrounding PA103.
    My family spoke of that dreadful night with a horror that is hard to describe. Of course newspapers and television use discretion when publishing photographs of crash-sites. They usually publish photographs of a teddy-bear or a broken doll to symbolise the human casualties.
    The image that we all associate with PA103 is that famous one of the flight deck section 'Maid of the Seas' lying on its port side in Jim Wilson's field on the North side of Tundergarth churchyard. The visual memory that the locals have is less sterile: it is of the vast quantity of human flesh littering the countryside, on the roofs, in the gutterings, on rosebushes, in the mouths of dogs etc. Horror turns to grief and grief turns to anger.
    There is no doubt that there WAS a major cover-up of a large amount of circumstantial evidence by US government agencies with the connivance of the UK govt. The official line that two Libyan spies did the bombing is blatant horse-shit. That convenient explanation did not come about until long after Lockerbie. Not until the geopolitical effects of Desert Storm did it become 'necessary' to ease off the belligerence towards Syria and Iran who were the prime suspects for the placing of any bomb and the fabrication of a 'case' against those two Libyans. "
    (English man with relatives in Lockerbie)

    Ella tells her story

    Ella Ramsden was among the ones, that received direct impact from Pan Am 103. A resident at the worst hit part of Lockerbie, Rosebank Site, her house was totally wrecked by the crashing airplane. The body of a passenger was embedded in her roof and she found another one outside her very garden gate:
    "I was opening Christmas cards in my living room. This is Your Life had just started at the telly, when Cara, my dog, came to me and her fur was standing on end. I was saying to her "What's wrong?". Then suddenly I heard this noise, I still can't describe it. I rushed to my window and looked outside. The whole place was lit up with an orange glow. I'd never seen anything in the sky like it. I wondered what was going on. I'd heard people before talking about the end of the world, and I knew there was something very wrong. "
    Ella then saw an explosion at Sherwood Crescent and black clouds of smoke. She then picked up her dog Cara and ran to the back door of the kitchen, still unsure of what to do. As she reached the door, all lights went out.
    The door wouldn't open: "I bent down to see if it had been jammed by the mat. That was when a piece of the plane had landed on my house and it really started to shudder. "
    The house of Ella Ramsden was the last one on the blockElla felt then she was beeing sucked back into the house. Dirt and dust flew past her, bruising her legs and plaster fell down around her. She still clung to her cat and was toppled.
    "I didn't know if I'd died or not for a wee while. I've been able to laugh about things since, but not at this time. I looked up then, and I couldn't see the stars at the ceiling. I grabbed a stew pot from the kitchen and flung it backwards with such a hieve. It smashed through the glass in the back door. It was such an eerie silence outside. I couldn't dare to scream or yell. So I just said very politely: "If there's anyone there will they please come and get my wee dog?".
    A neighbour had thought Ella to be dead when he saw the gable of the house. He heard her voice and ran back to help her get out the house. When Ella climbed over the fence in her garden she saw a body on the road she never imagined they had been on a plane, she thought it was someone local.

    A man who had been strolling out for a walk on the Rosebank street just after 1900 saw the plane hit her house. He spoke of seeing that section of the doomed plan heading earth twisting and turning in the sky before it chose to land on Ella Ramsdens house. Many people see Ella as the luckyist survivor of all the victims.

    Left: (1) Picture of dead victim, lowered from the roof of Ella Ramsden. Most of the Syracuse students landed in her backyard and on her roof.
    Right: (2) Color picture of Ella's house...well, what's left of it....on the morning December 22.
    Picture left in b/w: (3) Ella's house a few days later after the hanging roof has toppled. Far behind: the church of Lockerbie

    The young laddie on the doorsteps

    Ellas neighbour Bunty Galloway received her own parts of the airplane in her garden. Like Ella she was watching This is Your Life when she heard an awful noise that seemed to come closer and closer until she ran away.
    She ran to the front of her house:
    "There were spoons, underwear, headsquares, everything on the ground. A boy was lying at the bottom of the steps on to the road. A young laddie with brown socks and blue trousers on. Later that evening my son-in-law asked for a blanket to cover him. I didn't know he was dead. I gave him a lamb's wool travelling rug thinking I'd keep him warm. Two more girls were lying dead across the road, one of them bent over garden railings. It was just as though they were sleeping. The boy lay at the bottom of my stairs for days. Every time I came back to my house for clothes he was still there. "My boy is still there" I used to tell the waiting policeman. Eventually on Saturday I couldn't take it no more. "You got to get my boy lifted" I told the policeman. That night he was moved. "
    Bunty never found out the name of the boy. She often wondered who he was. In 1992 someone laid a bouqet of flowers not far away from where he was found.

    It's raining human limbs and seatbelts!

    Ruth Jameson, a mother of 2 kids, was on the forecourt of Townffot petrol station when the disaster happened:
    "It was a low rumble like thunder came first, then the whole sky lit up. The noise was deafening. I was absolutely petrified. Suddenly everything started falling down - lumps of plane, bits of seatbelts, packets of sugar, bits of bodies. There were burning bits all over the forecourt. It seemed to shower for ages, but it was only about five minutes."
    Ruth found two fingers on the roof next morning! For months after the disasters she was unable to work alone at the gas station on wednesdays. She eventually considered giving up her job because of all the tourists coming in and asking questions.
    Even today, some news media keeps on making mistakes, when they refer to the crash of Pan Am 103 by saying parts of the plane crashed into a gas-station and made the whole town explode. In fact, Ruth's gas station still stands today, where it stood in 1988 - not exploded, and not demolished by flight Pan Am 103!

    Coincidence seperated the lucky from the dead

    Mary Ward lived in Sherwood Crescent, the part of Lockerbie that took the worst hit. It was in Sherwood Crescent the big fuselage from Pan Am 103 fell and killed 11 citizens of Lockerbie, making a big crater in the ground:
    "I used to ask my husband, what was the point of paying all that house insurance every year. I never thought there would come something falling down from the sky and set the whole place on fire. "
    Mary Ward remembers Lockerbie 1988Mary Ward was lucky. She was just to go for a visit at the neighbours Jean Murray's house. If she would have gone ten minutes later, she would have been killed together with mrs. Murray.

    Max Kerr was after the crash of Pan Am appointed chairman of the Rosebank Community Liaison Committee, who used to visit people after the disaster, talking it over with the shocked people, arranging to keep them busy with knitting socks, baking scones and keeping peoples mind occupied by something else. About 20 bodies were found in his garden. Some lying around his back door, some sitting in his hedge.

    (The stories of Mary, Ruth, Bunty, Max and Ella and more victims can be found in the book Survivors written by Geraldine Sheridan and Thomas Kenning.)

    "The engine was still running full pitch!"

    Robert Riddet lived on the north of town in Lockerbie. He saw a giant fireball at Sherwood Crescent 3 miles away. Few seconds after it was raining over him and his neighbourhood with luggage and fuel. He heard noises just over his head: "It built up into a tremendous crescendo of sounds, " he told journalists. Then he looked almost straight up and saw engine number 3 tumbling wildly toward him, making screaming sounds. "It was still running full pitch." he said. Just as the noise became unbearable in Ridder's ears, it abruptly stopped.
    The engine had slammed into the pavement of a parking lot in front of an apartment house two blocks away. The impact drove the engine almost entirely underground. ripling the pavement in a circle araound the edge of the hole. The engine had just narrowly missed cars, houses and people.
  • A 6-mile path of horror

  • Ghouls and Reptiles

    Not everybody in or around Lockerbie behaved decent when Pan Am 103 crashed. Read this morbid story from a local witness:

    I used to live in Lockerbie, my wife was born there and her mother and sister still live there. On the night, I got a call at about 1am asking me to take video equipment across from my home in Dumfries, I was one of the few people who had a video 8 machine, and a motorist had told police he had videoed the plane coming down with his video 8 camera.

    I got there and it was like going into hell, fire hoses everywhere, people milling around, people ready and willing to help but with no clear idea of where to go and what to look for. The police station knew nothing of my trip, it took hours to get together with their technicians and to get hold of the tape, which was of the fires burning in the town, the plane had not been filmed.
    At seven in the morning I got home to Dumfries and went to work, having to pass through lockerbie on my way across the Borders to Kielder, picking up little scraps from the roadside all the way there and all the way back. The police had closed the Langholm Lockerbie road to try and stop the ghouls getting to the crash site by the time I got back and I used the back roads to get to Lockerbie and deliver my pitiful little collection, I rember a rucksack with raspberry jam from the Lake District, the jar broken, the jam almost like gore.

    I rember the lines of cars trying to find their way through the back roads I'm familiar with; I work for the Forrestry Commission and use the roads regularly; and my anger at the gawpers hanging over the wire fence of a field, staring at the bags of debris the farmer had collected, lots of them, and one woman yelling to a man who'd vaulted the wire, "Get me a sweater".

    I used my radio to let the police know what was happening and pressed on to Lockerbie. When I dropped my collection at the makeshift centre, the police were still in a state of shock, the area they were having to consider was growing bigger by the minute, debris was coming in from parts they had never considered. The town had settled, organisation had come with the light of day and the locals were able to put their knowledge to good use.

    I rember the women of Lockerbie baking almost night and day to feed the army of searchers, the leader of a unit of men, without transport who could find no-one to drive them or lend them a van to get to their destination, untill they asked a Salvation Army officer, he tossed them the keys to his van without even asking when he might get it back. The cash and carry store in Dumfries who, when the Salvation Army came to the check-out with a trolly full of goods for their mobile kitchens at Lockerbie, waved them through and told them to come back for more if they needed it.

    The hoards of pressmen who descended on the town, if ever the term 'Reptile' was more fitting, all they saw was their expense sheets and the chance of capturing the grief and gore for their greater glory, I almost ran over half a dozen of them in the morning as they milled around trying to get better pictures of the corpses on a roof, and the police seargant who pointedly turned his back on their protests as I forced my way through them with my van.

    They say that everyone knows whre they were when Kennedy died, for this little part of Scotland, we all know where we were when flight 103 died.

    George Leven, Dumfries

  • ...more on the looting of Pan Am 103 
  • Lockerbie: Reporter's reflections

    No one will forget the destruction (BBC 17/12/1998) The crash of Flight 103 remains Britain's largest mass murder. But to those involved in the emergency operations that night, it first appeared to be a huge, tragic accident. Scotland Correspondent Andrew Cassel looks back on the night that put Lockerbie on the international map.

    I knew within seconds of arriving in Lockerbie that there had been no survivors: The ambulances gave it away. They were strung out before me - two, three four abreast - all along one of the country roads leading into the town. Their doors were splayed open in hopeful readiness, their flashing lights casting a flickering blue tinge to the Christmas decorations above them. But there was little sign of activity - no paramedics urgently preparing equipment, no police officers in sight, no drivers now running engines.

    I had driven into Locerbie via Tundergarth Hill, the site where the cockpit of the doomed aircraft had come down. I paused briefly to get my bearings. I had lived and worked in Scotland for many years but the town was not one I knew very well. For me it was a brief train stop on the main line between Glasgow and London or a name on a signpost as you passed it on the A74 dual carriageway south towards the border.

    It was the fire hoses, snaking through the metal debris littered across the town, that led me towards one of the worst areas of devastation at Sherwood Crescent. It was there that one of the wings and part of the fuselage of the plane had landed in a huge fireball. We didn't know it at the time but this was where all 11 of the town's victims had lived.

    Everywhere you looked was a reminder that many, many more had died that this had been a disaster of international proportions. Here a jumper snagged in a tree. There an American passport partially hidden by an in-flight meal tray strewn across the footpath. The smell of aviation fuel was overpowering.

    The days ahead saw a succession of visitors and dignitaries to the town: American and British politicians, senior police officers, accident investigators. There were news conferences, constant updates of the death toll all accompanied by the constant clatter of helicopters overhead shuttling search teams across the countryside to locate the trail of wreckage.

    Through it all, stoically and with enormous dignity, the people of Lockerbie bore their own loss and opened their homes and hearts to the relatives of the passengers who had died. They had been told to stay away, to spare themselves the horrific scenes. They came anyway. The bonds forged then continue to this day and were about the only positive message I took with me as I left the town the day before Christmas. 

    The words of the reverend

    "It is not only pain and grief that we feel at this catastrophy, it is also indignation. For this was not an unforseeable natural disaster, such as an earthquake. Nor was it the result of human error or carelessness. This, we know now, was an act of human wickedness. That such carnage of the young and of the innocent should have been willed by men in cold and calculated evil is horror upon horror.
    What is our response to that ? The desire, the determination, that those who did this should be detected and, if possible, brought to justice, is natural and right. The uncovering of the truth will not be easy, and evidence that would stand up in a court of law may be hard to obtain.
    Justice is one thing. But already one hears in the media the word "retaliation". As far as I know, no responsible politician has used that word, and I hope none ever will, except to disown it. For that way lies the endless cycle of violence upon violence, horror upon horror. And we may be tempted, indeed urged by some, to flex our muscles in response, to show that we are men. To show that we are what ?
    To show that we are prepared to let more young and more innocent to die, to let more rescue workers labour in more wreckage to find grisly proof, not of our virility, but of our inhumanity. That is what retaliation means. I, for one, will have none of it, and I hope you will not either..."

    Right Reverend James Whyte at the Lockerbie Memorial Service January 4, 1989 at Dryfesdale Parish Church. Just the night before, US Military had shot down two Libyan fighter jets on the coast of Libya. His words of "retaliation" refers to that incident.

  • Scottish Cardinal John O'Connor remembrance service 22/1/1989 
  • Another eye-witness tells her story

    " I am an ex-Lockerbie resident, now living in South Africa. I was at home in Park Place, Lockerbie on 21st December 1988 when the tragic events unfolded.

    Let me explain where my house was in relation to the accident. As I stated, I lived in Park Place, which adjoins Rosebank Crescent. Ella Ramsden was a well-known figure in our locality, and a nicer woman you would never meet. In fact, her three children, Jimmy, Louise and Katherine, were of ages with my older siblings, David, Elizabeth and Mary. I am much younger!

    On the night of 21st December, we had just returned from Dumfries, where my father (an insurance agent) had attended his weekly sales meetings. We had also done some last minute Christmas shopping. I brought my best friend at that stage along with me, as his girlfriend had left that morning to spend Christmas with her grandparents in Troon, Ayrshire, and I felt he needed a little cheering up. We got back to Lockerbie at 6.45 pm, dropped Craig off, went home, and at that stage my mother decided to deliver a message to my sister-in-law who lived in Townhead Street, Lockerbie. My brother at that stage was a taxi driver in London, they didn't have a phone in their home in Lockerbie, and so David had phoned "home" to tell us that his daughter had been invited to a birthday party. My mother got into the car, after we had unloaded all the shopping, and set off to deliver the message.

    My father proceeded to open all the mail, and I began packing away all the groceries. I had just opened the freezer to start on the frozen goods when Iheard a rumbling sound, akin to thunder. Finding it strange that there should be thunder in December, I stopped what I was doing. The noise got louder, and the ground started to shake. The Armenian earthquake which claimed thousands of lives still fresh in my memory, I screamed for Dad, and proceeded to run outside, out the back door of our house. The sky was neon orange, and I looked to my left, over a transport depot directly behind my house. Had I looked to my right, I would definitely have seen the fuselage of the plane spewing out bodies.

    At that it went deathly still, and I ran back inside to the front door, where my father was standing. The streetlamp outside had sparks running up and down it. There was then this terrific explosion. I hauled Dad inside and threw us both onto the floor. Then again it went deathly still. Then mayhem. People from our street just started running, running up the hill towards Rosebank Crescent.

    I immediately got Dad to call 999 (our emergency number) - it was constantly engaged!!! Then miraculously he got a crossed line with a Police Traffic Patrol vehichle who was phoning in from the motorway, and had seen the "mushroom cloud", and wondered what had happened. I ran upstairs to my bedroom and I could see the fires from the other side of the railway line. My father then reported to the Police Officer that something had definitely happened in our street, as all the streetlights had gone out, and the electricity seemed to have earthed just outside our house (our block was the last block to have electricity). And that's why Lockerbie Fire Brigade came to Park Place first and not Sherwood Park. Ronnie Robertson, at that stage leadingfirefighter in the Lockerbie Brigade also couldn't understand it, until my father explainedwhat had happened. He felt bad that they hadn't gone to Sherwood Crescentfirst, until the Fire Chief in Dumfries told him that they had secured a gas leak in Rosebank Crescent, and had they not done that, there could have been much worse tragedies. They only had a certain amount of water in their Fire Tender, certainly not enough to cope with the fires in Sherwood.

    Far from the earthquake or the explosion at the transport depot that I thought had occurred, already the people from our street were talking about a military jet crash. We knew it had to happen one day. They buzzed our town mercilessly like annoying mosquitoes. The people were calling for first aiders, and my father was once part of an ambulance team when he was a coal miner in the 1950's. So he ran out to see what he could do. Meanwhile I was worried about my mother who still hadn't returned. She eventually did - and of course me standing at the door without my father made her go into a flat spin, but I was able to assure her that I was fine, Dad was fine, and she assured me that my sister-in-law and niece were both safe and well. What had amused my little five-year-old niece, if anything in that terrible situation could be amusing, was that the catflap opened - and their cat was lying asleep on the rug!

    But now the town became a hive of people trying to find their loved ones, trying to make sure that those closest to them were safe and unhurt. I panicked for the safety of my best friend. I ran to his house, and there I heard that his cousin (who lived next door to Ella) had been killed. All his mother could say to me was "Marilyn's lassie, oh, Marilyn's lassie". (It later turned out that Carol was safe and well - this girl who looked very similar in height, build and hair colouring was actually a passenger from the plane). But I was now hysterical. I ran back down to my house (15 doors away), and there met a boy that I went to school with (I had left school the previous May, and was now at college). Stephen asked if I was okay, and vice versa. I then asked him if it was true about Carol. He said "I think so", and my hysteria started again. I started screaming "I"ve got to find Craig!" Luckily Stephen just threw his arms around me and said "Pearl, Craig's fine! I've seen him. He's fine. He's safe." That's how it was in Lockerbie that night. People, who didn't normally bother about each other, were just throwing their arms around each other, giving each other comfort and reassurance that was so badly needed. Shortly after that, Craig arrived at my door, and we just ran into each other's arms.

    Craig isn't usually a very emotional person, and we didn't normally go around hugging each other, but I couldn't help it and neither could he. As I sobbed onto his shoulder, he replied through his tears "Dinnae greet, Pearl, dinnae greet". (Don't cry).

    Something amazing that night. When I think about it, it was midwinter - freezing cold. Yet the heat from the fires in Sherwood was so intense that I don't remember seeing anyone in our street wearing a jacket. Also for days afterwards everyone had this tickly cough - the after effects of the aviation fuel.

    I have to say that the townspeople were amazing. Thrown into the limelight of an information hungry and ofttimes ghoulish world, the normally very introverted but friendly people handled themselves with great composure, especially people like Ella, who instead of feeling sorry for herself, got right down to work in the school kitchens, helping out the servicemen and women who were conducting the rescue mission.

    Another person who was truly wonderful - and still is to this day - is a close family friend, Mr Alex Traill. He hadn't been home the night of the disaster, he had been staying with his son in Dumfries. Angus phoned us to make sure we were safe, and my father told Angus to keep his father (who has a week heart) with them at least overnight. "Uncle" Alex (as I"ve called him all my life) came home the next day, ashen faced as he witnessed the destruction he saw around. But when they set up a resident's committee, he immediately got involved. The first committee meeting, with our MP and various other representatives was in fact held in the little chapel we had at the end of Park Place. Uncle Alex to this day still escorts relatives around the various sites, explaining the events, allowing them a moment of private grief, a shoulder to cry on, or a few words of comfort, and then a three course meal at his house! He really got involved and has been a great comfort to many grieving relatives from the USA.

    But the interest in Lockerbie has not always been wholesome. We have had our "ghouls". One lady was asked where the crater was. When she told them it had been filled in, they left with the words "Oh well, there's nothing to see - it's not worth it". I worked in a police station for a while gaining secretarial experience as part of my college course. One day this American tourist walked into the office, saying "Where did the plane crash?" I told him the three main areas - Rosebank Crescent, Sherwood Crescent and Tundergarth; "Yeah but where did the bits come down?" I told him they were scattered over an area of 18 miles in radius. "Yeah, but wasn't there a crater?" Sad. They don't want to pay their respects - just to be ghoulish.

    One year after the event, I really couldn't face being in Lockerbie. I just couldn't. I went to a friend's house in Dumfries for the evening. The following year, it was the same story, and by the following year, I was living in South Africa, having married my Capetonian penpal. Flying does make me nervous now, and I tend to think about things like terrorist bombs. But I reckon if it is your time to go, well, that's it.

    I love my town, and I will always be glad that I grew up there, always. The townsfolk really proved themselves on the night and beyond. They have recovered. They pulled together. I also wouldn't agree that violence in the town increased, even though my brother was assaulted on Christmas Eve. I can't say that there was a real marked increase in crime AS A RESULT. But I would probably agree that drinking increased. Bear in mind that it was the festive season. People do tend to get drunk and disorderly then anyway. Maybe it was more pronounced that year than on any other year. But street brawls over Christmas and New Year are not uncommon.

    Craig and I sadly grew apart when I moved to South Africa and we don't really keep in touch. Stephen, who comforted me, and I became fairly good friends, thanks to that event. He is now a police officer in nearby Annan. I, as I say, have moved to South Africa, where I am an Admin Manager for a computer training firm. The events will never, ever go away from my mind. They can't be erased, but I can always think of the people, the Salvation Army, the volunteers at the school, and I think how we didn't sit back and mope, feeling sorry for ourselves. We actually rolled our sleeves up and got on with it. I'm proud of my town!

    Pearl Goldie (nee Lindsay)
    Cape Town,
    South Africa

    The aftermath

    The people of Lockerbie changed after the crash of Pan Am 103. There was a big increase in crime, especially violence, and a vast increase in drinking and medical abuse problems among the inhabitants of the small Scottish town. People got sick - strange diseases, coughing, respitory problems and allergics due to fuselage fuel from the crash and other side effects on health.

    The worst part was the thousands of tourists, visitors and media -people, for years to come. Lockerbie-residents often came home from work to find visitors cars parked inside their own parking lots, visitors took cuttings from hedges, flowers from people's gardens, looking through windows, ringing doorbells...

    Even today people keep visting Lockerbie, expecting to see parts of the plane, the Sherwood crater, destroyed buildings. They get so disappointed, when they find nothing!

    Not even 10 years after the crash is the town of Lockerbie allowed to carry on with life. The upcoming 10th anniversary will not pass by in silence as the Lockerbie'ers protest once more against further media performances in their town:

    Lockerbie to Clinton: "Stay away from us in 1998"
    More about the preparations for the upcoming 10th anniversary

    Message from Lockerbie policeman, who participated in the cleaning-up, December 1998

    Other than the people of Lockerbie had to cope with the crash of Pan Am 103. Being a friend, a relative or an aquaintant to any of the victims has also its own share of impact on a life.
    Trish Davidson from the USA knew the co-pilot of Pan Am 103:

    "Look guys, my neighbor was the copilot on Pam Am 103. I didn't like the man much, but it is still very difficult to accept an act of random violence for me and I am just an acquaintaince. I think the relatives are still in pain and they want people to recognize that they are still in pain. Of course protesting isn't going to do any "good" and of course it would be helpful to "get on with their lives" as people have suggested, but losing someone, especially a child, to terrorism must leave you with tremendous anger. I know I am still angry when I hear references to Pan Am 103 in the media. So lighten up, and don't be so judgmental ablut these relatives. Your life wasn't shattered and theirs was."

    Not only residents of Lockerbie feel strongly about what happened that day and the days after the crash. Eric Fredricks, an American tourist from Nebraska, touring the lowlands and highlands of Scotland on his first Europa-trip, was moved deeply, when he - by accident almost - visited the small town with the big burden. He found himself in some horrible, clairvoyant replay of that day when Pan Am 103 came tumbling down from the blue Scottish sky and he learned some valuable lessons:

    Lessons of Lockerbie - the bad dream

    Lessons of Lockerbie
    Scotland in July is something everyone should see. The scenery is to say the least
    beautiful. The skies are tranquil and the temperatures are in the lower seventies. I
    would go so far as to calling it God's "back yard". I pictured myself with a
    stone-cobbled house, a thick wool sweater, and a red-green kilt. After being
    contented by corned beef and something I can't pronounce on rye bread
    sandwiches, and about ten glasses of apple juice, I was refueled and ready to enjoy
    the bus ride to my final destination--Edinburgh, Scotland. As the tour bus drove
    endlessly through the thickly wooded lake district, I felt the peaceful surroundings
    radiate through the window and into my body. My eyes strained in trying to find a
    glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, but I knew I was too far south. Scotland was
    only a small part of my tours plan, but you can't experience Great Britain without
    including its history, culture, and stunning natural beauty. 
    The afternoon passed by with an enjoyable monotony. I lay back in my seat,
    listening to old Steve Miller tunes on the coach radio, thinking nothing could be
    better than this. The long and winding roads began to take their toll and I began to
    find myself battling with sleep. The sleep won as usual. That was until my bladder
    began to feel like a ten pound weight on my lap. What made me drink so much
    apple juice? I was practically swimming in the stuff. All I could dream about now
    was a big clean john to literally drain my troubles into. I struggled to remain a dry
    back for about fourty-five torturesome minutes. Just when I thought the levee was
    about to break, the tour guide informed us that we would soon be driving through
    the infamous town of Lockerbie.
    I said to myself, "who the hell cares as long as its
    got a good commode!" The bus stopped and the tour director reminded us that we
    had ten minutes to do our thing, because we were behind schedule. I shot toward
    the bathroom like a heat-seeking missile to a MiG 23. To my dismay the toilets
    looked like something even King Arthur wouldn't take a dump in, but I wasn't going
    to be choosy. As I pulled my shorts up I realized just where I was. Jumping Jesus!
    It can't be. 
    In case you may have forgotten in the last twenty-one months, Lockerbie is the
    final resting place of Pan Am flight 103. It was the evil and sick wrath of terrorism,
    not to mention to bomb, that brought down the 747 full of innocent victims a few
    days before Christmas 1988. I walked out of the restroom looking at the clear,
    blue, Scottish sky and it really put the hook in me. Up in that serene peace
    hundreds of helpless airline passengers died in a quick and devastating explosion. I
    began to explore some of the nearby areas. Looking at the sky again, I saw the
    disaster taking place as if I were really there on that fateful day. I stood and
    watched while taking notes in my mind. 
    It was a horrifying and sobering piece of time. The visions became clearer and
    clearer in my mind. The huge carcus of a once mighty plane was scattered all
    around me like a dead, limp seagull. The bodies of the dead and severely wounded
    lay everywhere, making it hard for me to walk. Mothers and fathers, husbands and
    wives, young men and women massed amidst a twisted and fire-breathing pile of
    scrap metal. It resembled a bloody, mangled carpet. I could smell that
    ever-wretched stench of death still floating in the air like a demon. It was more than
    enough to make a person want to vomit. Cries and moans came about like a flock
    of sick geese. Many were not heard due to the blazing inferno all around. As I
    snaped out of my mental state, I caught a glimpse of the growing, green fields. How
    could something so wretchedly wicked happen to such a quiet town such as this? 
    I scanned the horizon again and visually put myself into the place of a Lockerbie
    resident. Life before the catastrophe had to have been so fulfilling and promising.
    The green pastures and running streams made it heavenly. That all came to a swift
    end as the plane dropped on the village with all its terrible, devilish fury. I wanted
    to help the crash survivors, but there was no way I could without risking bodily
    harm. I just had to pray that the fire would go down so I could help someone in a
    desperate situation. These and other similar thoughts had to have been shooting
    through the minds of those living in Lockerbie at the moment to disaster. I was in a
    state of utter and total shock. I was frightened beyond belief, but had to do my part
    in some fashion. I proceeded to help a fire crew with their hoses. The water did
    little, the fire was just too out of control. Next, I aided another town resident in
    removing a heavy piece of aircraft engine off of an elderly man. He was rescued,
    but badly burned. I coughed and choked on smoke and gasoline fumes, but nothing
    could stop me from giving help where it was needed. I was hot, scared, and wanted
    to cry. As I came back down to reality again, I found my feelings taking shape of
    those in my visions. This was almost too much to handle in one day. 
    Finally, on my walk back to the bus, I journeyed back to the mental state and took
    the place of an unlucky but brave airline passenger. I was in my last few painful
    moments of existence. I was in an aisle seat reading a newspaper when I was
    interrupted by a deafening blast. The air was sucked out of my lungs like the burst
    of a balloon. Fire began to engulf the fuselage and the cabin. Some were saying
    Hail Mary's while others babbled about being late to the airport. People were
    screaming like I've never heard screaming before. It was the chorus of death. It
    was mass confusion and panic. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
    This was to be the last trip anyone would ever take again. Then, as suddenly as it
    started, it was over. The passengers terror was over, but Lockerbie's had just
    begun. Yes, the visions I just relayed to you were not based on my first hand
    knowledge, but they had to have been real to a certain extent. 
    I stepped back into the bus emotionally drained. I looked around Lockerbie and
    began to see what its current face looks like. There were still many obvious scars
    scaping the land. Many of the old stone houses in the village had new roofs. Some
    were still being rebuilt. The farm fields that were once abound with crops were now
    dark brown. The
    flatness of the land resembled the prairies of Kansas. Lockerbie was a barren and
    haunting place to be. Now I know what the feeling of going into "no man's land"
    had to have been like for the doughboys in World War I. The feeling I had here
    was certainly similar. 
    I sat in my bus seat and peered out the window at Lockerbie one final time. My
    eyes were mesmerized by it and I couldn't take them off it. I didn't know why or
    what I was doing here. I didn't want to stick around any longer. The bus was then
    on its way out of town. The route we took happened to go over a bridge that was
    destroyed by the plane crash. It was redone of course, but it didn't belong. If I had
    been in this exact spot on that night, I'd have been killed. That thought sent a chill
    up my spine. The skies turned cloudy after we were out of town. It was some
    What lessons did this experience teach me? I don't know what they are, but they
    are the reason that I am writing this paper now. Listening to a few choice songs on
    my walkman in my hotel room later on that day may have lead me to a couple of
    answers. Although I had heard the song "Sympathy For the Devil" by the Rolling
    Stones many times before, this particular time was downright terrifying. Don't get
    me wrong, I'm not a Satanist but the lyrics do spell out some of the thoughts of
    darkness I endured. 
    "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste/I've been
    around for a long , long, year, stole many a man's soul and faith" Further on into
    the song: 
    "Stuck around St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change/Killed the czar
    and his ministers, Anastasia screamed in vain/I rode a tank in a generous rank when
    the blitzkreig raged and the bodies stank" Still further: 
    "Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name/But what's puzzling you is the
    nature of my game" 
    I was stultified. The passengers on the airplane that perished could be directly or
    indirectly tied to these lyrics. They were part of a needless catastrope that could be
    tied to the evil workings of the Devil. They were grabbed by Satan's ugly hand with
    delight. It was a tragically ironic song because I was near it. 
    Another lesson I have learned is one about death itself. Death is as much part of life
    as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We just don't like to think about it because it is a
    rather depressing subject. Nobody really wants to die, but we are always faced with
    the fact that we have to sometime. It is doubtful that the travelers on Flight 103
    were all ready to die themselves. It must've been so terrible and pain-stricken on
    that 747 just before the final crash. There obviously had to have been pain, horror,
    and terror. This is where another song comes into the picture. I am not advocating
    suicide, but death shouldn't be such a taboo subject. We need not be afraid of
    death because it does end the pain and suffering of life. The passengers surely
    wanted a way to end their suffering and death gave them that peaceful end. Yes,
    that did sound dark and morbid, but I think that it is a relevant assumption. 
    In the epic song "The End" by the Door's, we can see that what I just stated may
    be somewhat true. The lyrics tell quite a story. 
    "This is the end, beautiful friend/This is the end, my only friend....the end /Of our
    elaborate plans, the end, no safety or surprise,the end, I'll never look into your eyes
    again" Further on: "Can you picture what will be so limitless and free?/Desperately
    in need of some strangers hand, in a desperate land" 
    I don't want to die for a long time. Who doesn't? I just feel that we should not be
    afraid of death wherever and whenever it comes. At the moment of death there is a
    certain peace. Death can be a good thing if you really think about it. 
    The final lesson I learned from my experience of Lockerbie is one about life and
    death in general. Since one of the uncertainties of life is not knowing when we will
    meet up with the grim reaper, it may be hard to swallow what I'm about to say. We
    need to live one day at a time and live our life to the fullest, because that day could
    be our last. The disaster of Lockerbie is just another sad example at how fast we
    can go. I know there was at least somebody on that plane who wished they
    could've hugged or kissed a loved one good-bye for the last time and didn't have
    the chance. Life can't be lived be just one person. We need to share ourselves with
    the ones we know to make it even more meaningful. 
    Its been over a year since my European tour visited Lockerbie, Scotland, but the
    memories are still vivid in my mind. I learned more from those few minutes in that
    village than anything the tour guide could've said about France or Germany. I've
    learned to have an intense hatred of terrorism and believe it should be dealt with
    severely. This incident showed just how ghastly and inhumane terrorism can be
    from a close perspective. Even if my presence was indirect, this naive Nebraska
    boy now knows what this perspective feels like. 
                                               --  Eric Fredricks --

    Lockerbie was beautiful today

    NEW! Commemoration essay, written by a local visitor 17/12/1999

    "Inevitably, the images of those dark December days eleven years ago flashed through my mind as they always do, and I think always will, whenever I go there. The main street alive with people and television cameras that first morning at 6am as we walked down to Sherwood; the deathly hush there in the eerie darkness as we were allowed through the police cordon and approached the crater; and the many journeys made though those same dark streets for many weeks in early morning and late at night to and from the incident control centre. Memories of tears wept at the image of the little girl on the plane in the red dress who ‘didn’t deserve this’ as she was described on a bouquet laid at the town hall in these early days and of standing with John Boyd in front of the town hall, again in the dark evening, head bowed as the first coffins left Lockerbie to go home. "

    Raed the full essay HERE

     Strangers at the graveyard

    ViewSome relatives rushed to Lockerbie at the very moment they herad about the death of their loved ones. Some have visited the tiny Scottish town on several occasions or on regular basis. Others have never seen Lockerbie and do not want to ever. A few victims from flight Pan Am 103 are buried at the cemetary in Lockerbie or Tundergarth. Almost all American victims have been flown home for burial.
  • 1 year later: US kin in Lockerbie
  • Burial in Lockerbie: resting on the green hills of Scotland

  • Some months after the crash, the town still was in deep sorrow. Then someone suggested to give a cheer-up party for the children of Lockerbie, who had been living in a town of sorrow for so long. Multinational American companies like Coca Cola and Disney were ready to participate. But relatives of mainly US victims blocked such an invent. They argued it was tasteless to have Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to come to the place where their kin had been killed and hand out free soft drinks and balloons for the kids. So the idea was dead even before it was born.

  • Party in Lockerbie, outrage in New York

  • Lockerbie/Syracuse joint scholarship fund

    A fund has been set up at Lockerbie Academy by two academy teachers and local councilmen who are trustees of the air disaster fund.

    Students from the Lockerbie area of southern Scotland who meet university entrance qualifications will compete annually for the double scholarship, which is managed by the Lockerbie and Syracuse University Trust. The scholarship is funded jointly by the university and the disaster fund.

    The first student exchange took place in 1990

    Lockerbie: a 10 year story

    It has taken more than 10 years for the people of Lockerbie to rebuild their town. The crater is long gone, but the scars live on. The citizens of Lockerbie have tried to forget. But each year around christmas something will make them remember.....for the first time in 10 years the town had brought out their christmas lights in 1998. But does that mean, the town is back to "normal" ?
  • Lockerbie: 10 years of commemorations
  • Lockerbie: 10 years of commemorations - part 2
  • Scars are healing but memories remain
  • Ella Ramsden 1998: Old wounds reopen on Lockerbie's Anniversary

  • The Lockerbie 10 year commemoration event 21/12/1998

  • Recent local news:

    August, 18th, 1999 - From The Dumfries and Gallaoway Standard
    THE people of Lockerbie receive a special "thank you" from the mother of one of the young victims of Pan Am Flight 103 in a book she has just published about her daughter.

    Miriam's Gift is a tribute to 20-year-old Miriam Wolfe, who was one of the 35 Syracuse University students killed on the New York bound flight more than 10 years ago. Her mother, Rosemary Mild, from Severna Park, Annapolis, in Maryland, hopes that by writing the 174-page book she has shown how special her daughter was and the importance of recognising and appreciating a child's gifts today. She writes: "Please don't wait until tomorrow...because there might not be a tomorrow." Mrs Mild has received hundreds of letters since the disaster paying tribute to the many good things her daughter had done and the help she had given many people.
    And she said: "We hadn't realised how many lives she had touched and how special she was not only to us but to others. "We didn't even know she had written her own journals until they were returned among her personal effects to us from Lockerbie. "The people of Lockerbie so lovingly washed them and ironed them and also ironed the pages of her journals. The saintly people of Lockerbie gave us a gift, an irreplaceable gift, by allowing all of these things to be returned to me." Miriam, who would have been 31 next month, graduated from her local high school just two years before the disaster and was president of the school's drama club and won an award for achievement in the arts and humanities.
    She attended Syracuse University to major in musical theatre and had been in London studying acting, art, dance and dramatic literature. Her mother, who visited the Garden of Remembrance in Lockerbie to see the plaque to her daughter, recalled the chilling, painful memories in the aftermath of the disaster. She said: "I felt outraged and angry that she was taken away from me so young and then I though what if the world never knows who she is?" One of the first letters came by way of a national television show on Christmas Day just after the tragedy - a show that was devoted to the flight and its victims. The presenter finished the programme with a letter from one who had known Miriam at the University: "She was a blissfully talented creature full of joy and light and love." The words were later placed on her headstone.

    July 7th, 1999 - From The Dumfries and Gallaoway Standard
    US RELATIVES of the Lockerbie disaster victims are throwing their backing behind a campaign which has been launched to keep open the tiny church that will forever be linked to the tragic pictures of the wrecked nose-cone of Pan Am's ``Maid of the Seas". Tundergarth Church is just 40 yards from the spot where the nose cone of Flight 103 came down after being blasted out of the skies in December 1988, and its future is in doubt because of essential repairs needed to the clock tower.
    The church grounds now house a simple Remembrance Room - a ``shrine" to many of the relatives and friends. And local farmer Roy McGregor, chairman of the campaign and a member of the congregation said: ``Relatives and visitors from all over the world come here to remember those who is vital that we save the church." The chairman of the Pan Am relatives group in the US, Jack Schultz - who was at the dedication ceremony of the memorial room which features a plaque, a book containing the names of all who died and a visitors book - said: ``We will do all we can to help save the church - it is a shrine to many relatives." The campaign committee have already started a round of the 64 houses in the parish seeking pledges of support for the church with the future under consideration by the local Presbytery and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
    It's just over ten years since that ``longest" night in 1988 when the nose cone and a number of victims were found just across the road from the country kirk. And it was decided in the aftermath to convert a little building in the church grounds into a remembrance room for those who died. The ministry in the church, which is linked with two neighbouring parishes, is vacant since the Reverend John Miller moved to Glasgow last year. The congregation want to call a new minister but have to prove that the repairs can be carried out first and have been given until the middle of next month to show that they can raise the funds.

    ******** back to Main Victim page ****
    ******** back to Main page ****