There will be remembrances Sunday at Syracuse University and Arlington National Cemetery to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. Thirty-five students from Syracuse and a number of others from across New York State died in that bombing on December 21st, 1988. One other town will be remembering what happened. But as our Bill Carey reports, that town would rather sometimes forget.
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SCOTLAND -- It is a place of rolling green hills. A place where it is difficult to tell where the farms end and the town begins.
“And he saw them sitting in their seats in the fuselage, before it hit,” said Maxwell Kerr, a resident of Lockerbie.
But it is also a town with a history. One part of that history, 20 years ago, is very dark.
“We don't just forget it. It's too much to try to forget what happened here. There are too many painful memories. We had friends die in here,” said Kerr.
The reminders range from a visitor center and garden of remembrance at the local cemetery to Rosebank and Park Place neighborhood to a subdued memorial at the epicenter of the town's losses, Sherwood Crescent.
Here in Lockerbie, you get the sense that people share the curse of those in Dallas, Texas, where John F. Kennedy was murdered 25 years before the bombing here. They're desperate to move forward, to highlight their achievements, to seek out new goals. But, they know that the name of their town will always be tied to a tragedy.
“It used to be, when we were traveling, and we'd say we came from Lockerbie, the reaction was usually, ‘Where's that,’ or, ‘I've passed it on the way down the A-74,’ or on the train. After this, of course, when you say Lockerbie, the reaction is, ‘oh,’” said Lockerbie resident John Gair.
“Lockerbie moved on very quickly. The press and the media in general just don't believe that, but, yes, we were functioning. Back to normal. We had houses rebuilt, I would say, within the year. Quite easily within the year. And now I think all we want to be remembered for is not so much the disaster , which is synonymous with Lockerbie, but we want to be remembered, I think, just for having some empathy with those who lost people here,” said Marjory McQueen who calls Lockerbie home.
As the 20th anniversary approached, the people of Lockerbie knew what was coming. That there would be new reminders of a chapter they would rather set aside.
“Oh, the majority is leave us alone. The majority is we don't wish to do anything to remember this anniversary. We just want to get on with our lives,” said McQueen.
There is a fairly strong feeling in the town that people don't want to dwell too much on the disaster. The feeling that it is 20 years ago nearly,” Gair said.
Lockerbie says it has seen success in recent years. New jobs. It's population growing. And, as the 20th anniversary of Pan Am 103 passes, Lockerbie says it wants to be known as more than just a target.
“We were sort of collateral damage. You know, they didn't come to bomb Lockerbie. They came to kill and destroy, and we were incidental in that,” McQueen said.