Times Union, Albany, USA
SATURDAY, December 24, 1988
SHOCKED FAMILIES, FRIENDS OF FLIGHT 103 VICTIMS ASK WHY? 'BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE ...'By Craig Brandon Staff writer with wire reports
As the local families of victims of Flight 103 began recovering from the initial shock of the tragedy there was one question that they asked over and over again Friday.
The fact that there are no answers yet to why the plane exploded or why the public had not been warned about the bomb threat made it no easier to take, family members said.
Phone calls from the State Department continued to keep the families informed of the developments, but the families who gathered around joyless Christmas trees said they still could not deal with the fact that their loved ones would not be coming home.
Relatives of Melina Hudson of Albany and Lynne Hartunian of Colonie said no members of the family planned to go to Scotland and no memorial services had been planned so far.
Instead, they have spent the past two days quietly with friends and asking the same questions over and over. Some of them said they have had unpleasant experiences with news media cameras and were no longer willing to give out information about the family.
A man who identified himself as Melina Hudson's brother said no one from the family would speak with the news media in the future.
"We gave out the information about my sister," he said. "But we have nothing more to say now."
Those willing to speak, however, said they could not understand why the airlines or the government had not passed on information about a bomb threat made against Pan Am flights originating in Frankfurt, West Germany, and bound for the United States.
An anonymous caller to the Associated Press bureau in London claimed Thursday the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, an Iranian-terrorist group, was responsible for the crash. The U.S. State Department also acknowledged that threats had been made against the airline.
Joseph Hartunian, father of Lynne, said that if he had known about the warnings he would not have let his daughter fly, especially on a Pan American jet.
He said she had been traveling throughout Europe in the weeks before she returned home and the family had been concerned for her safety, even without the threats.
A local psychiatrist said the shift from shock to anger was a normal part of the process of dealing with the violent death of a loved one.
Dr. Sam Mastrianni, director of the Four Winds psychiatric hospital in Saratoga Springs, said he could not imagine a worse set of circumstances for a tragedy: students returning from a long stay in Europe for a Christmas reunion with their families.
The families, he said, had been looking forward to the reunion, had the presents wrapped and activities planned, then heard the news on the television just hours before the scheduled return.
Mastrianni said he has met with officials at the Albany Academy for Girls to help students deal with the loss of their classmate Melina Hudson, 16, who died in the crash.
"We associate that age group with so much promise," he said, "unlike older people who pass away after they have accomplished something. It's the suddenness of the loss and the loss of such promise."
The Christmas holidays, traditionally a time when families draw closer together, make it harder to cope, he said.
He advised the friends and relatives of the victims' families to maintain close contact and not avoid them because they felt helpless.
"The most helpful thing is to be with people," he said. "Let them know that you care. When someone feels this kind of loss they feel unconnected. You don't have to have a magic word or phrase. Just be there."
Meanwhile, a State University at Albany student has been identified as among the 258 people passengers aboard Flight 103, the university announced Friday.
University officials were notified late Thursday that Michele Gaber, 21, a communications major from Matawan, N.J., was among those on the ill- fated flight, Pat Hunt, associate vice president of the university, said Friday afternoon.
Gaber, a third-year student at Albany State, was in London as part of an exchange student program administered by Rockland Community College.
No vigils or other memorial services were planned for Gaber at the school, he said, because students had already gone home for the holidays.
Anger and bitterness also began to mix with the grief that gripped Syracuse University as students and faculty reacted to the possibility that Pan Am Flight 103 was downed by a terrorist bomb.
"It wasn't an accident," said a Syracuse student as he sat underneath a U.S. flag that had been lowered to half-staff. He lit a small red candle in memory of a friend he would never see again.
"They were murdered, which makes it a little harder to deal with," said the student, who wouldn't give his name.
Thirty-five students who had traveled to Europe under Syracuse's International Programs Abroad were killed Wednesday when their Pan Am jumbo jet crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland. All 258 passengers and crew aboard were killed, as were at least 22 villagers on the ground.
Peter Schuyler, a graduate student at Syracuse, found it difficult to accept the death of his friend, Shannon Davis. His disbelief turned to anger as reports of a terrorist bombing became more concrete.
"It's just unbelievable that anybody could carry out an act like that," he said. "It's such a shocking thing."
"There's no sense to any of it," said Geri Clark, a faculty member in the university's drama department, which lost five students.
"Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people," she said.
Syracuse Chancellor Melvin Eggers also reacted strongly to the reports of terrorist involvement.
"To consider it as a deliberate act is almost incomprehensible. It's so appalling, it's difficult to contemplate," said Eggers.