Remembering the Lockerbie Bombing

Thirty years ago today, Pan Am Flight 103 was en route from London to New York with 259 people on board. A bomb hidden in a suitcase detonated, and as the plane fell parts of it landed on the small market town of Lockerbie, killing 11 people on the ground.

This was pre-Al Qaeda, pre-9/11, but it was a terrorist act nonetheless. One of the newspapers here claims new evidence in the case, which it says disproves the theory that Libya was behind the atrocity. Only time will tell. So far, only one person has been found guilty of this gross act. One problem is that, as time goes by, those who know the truth about what really caused it and who was really to blame are dying.  Maybe we’ll never know the true story.

I’m not originally from Lockerbie, but I went to school there, and I lived for fifteen years or so within twenty miles of the town. I had moved away by the time of the bombing, but as the years go by I seem to learn more about the tragedy and I seem to become more affected by it.  Some of my friends were more directly affected than me, one of whom was in a house which was left standing while others next door were obliterated.

I’ve spent much of today thinking about those who perished, how they will have known little or nothing about their deaths. I’ve also been thinking about those who discovered wreckage and bodies in their gardens, in their fields. My thoughts have been with those who spent the months afterwards clearing up, removing debris to try to find out what happened, and with those who had to try to rebuild their lives in the aftermath.

Reading some of the personal stories, of women who sorted and laundered clothes so they could be sent to bereaved families, of the farmers who found the cockpit on their land and are still finding debris in their fields even this year, of ordinary people who have seen and had to deal with so much, things no-one should ever have to see, I’ve been struck by the care and dignity of the people of Lockerbie.

My heart goes out to all those who have been affected, to the family and friends of those who died, to those whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed, and to those who had clean up the awful devastation. I will remember them till the end of my days.