32 Years On: Remembering Pan Am 103 | 35Chronicle

people, photography

21.12.1988.


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There’s not a lot I actually know that hasn’t been in the media over the last 32 years, about the Lockerbie Disaster. Though, this week, the BBC reported that the man alleged to have been behind the making of the bomb that killed 270 people on board Pan Am Flight 103 0n the 21st December 1988 has been charged with terrorism offences. When the disaster occurred, I was still living in my hometown in the Midlands and hadn’t even made the move to Scotland. I wouldn’t even have contemplated that mover for another 11 or 12 years afterwards. I remember the news though and the horror of it all – so many lost; and their families, loved ones, friends, colleagues, fellow students – all of them feeling the pain of this horrific attack. And the people of Lockerbie too, those who died on the ground and those who didn’t. It affected everyone I think, far and wide but none so much as those 270 people who lost their lives on the 21st December 1988. I was 18 when it happened.

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On my commute to work as a paramedic, I pass the Garden of Remembrance at the top of Cemetery Brae before the start of every shift, and after the end of each. In fact, I would probably pass it a dozen times during my shift and over the past fifteen years of being stationed at Lockerbie, like every local or worker in the town – it’s a fixture, easily disregarded when negotiating those bends at speed. There’s a small car park in front of it and the cemetery itself runs a good few hundred yards before one arrives at the memorial.  We arrived yesterday, late morning – barely another person in sight. The day before, however, the annual remembrance ceremony had taken place and fresh flowers and tributes laid for the victims of Pan Am Flight 103. Though the people of Lockerbie are seldom heard to talk about it, the disaster is palpably, tangibly close the town’s heart. To the outside world, it’s a town defined almost solely by those awful events – but as one who has worked here for almost 20 years, I can’t agree completely. Yes, there will always be the memory and the scars of what happened to those who lived through it and the knowledge, for those who did not. But the town and it’s people carry on – because that is all that can be done; it’s a very stoic, strong and resolute community. As for the families and loved ones of those who were taken, one can only speculate on the pain that they will feel as they always have since that night. Former Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell MP, said it beautifully when he wrote in a tribute which he placed yesterday, “For those who haven’t been able to make it to Lockerbie this year, you are not forgotten. They are not forgotten.”

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Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with colleagues about what happened that awful night. One such gentleman I spoke with was a former ambulance technician by the name of George White. He was on call that evening and was the first clinician on scene. The horror he faced was something which he was never able to put into actual words and we’d never have forced them either, but by the look on his face as he spoke all those years ago – he told the scene without ambiguity. I remembered George again yesterday when I read one particular name on the plaque. Suzanne Marie Miazga. She was 22 years old. Her body was found on the grounds of the ambulance station directly after the 747 was torn apart; her picture still sits in a frame on the bookshelf in our rest-room, directly beneath the TV. Her life, and the taking of it is also the reason why we tend a pink rose-bush at the corner of the entrance to our station – her name engraved in the brass plaque on the front of the planter. Pink roses were her favourite. Every single person on that flight had a favourite something and that is still worth remembering. 

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During the decades after, Suzanne’s mother kept in regular touch with George and he would travel to the States often to see her; eventually they became so close that they married. Memory fades a little for me now and I can’t remember exactly when they were married but it was certainly within the last ten years. Sadly though, due to failing health, and age – George passed away just a few years ago. As I remember him here, I hope that you’ll have a look at a few frames I grabbed yesterday and remember them all. 

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Never Forget.

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4 thoughts on “32 Years On: Remembering Pan Am 103 | 35Chronicle

  1. The nonsense of terrorism, come where it comes.
    We have here our own lot of such stories.
    And not to forget our own sad list of terrible aircraft tragedies, such as Los Rodeos, back in 1977, the deadliest in aviation history.

    Lest we forget…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Javier, you are so right. One day I am sure there will be no one who can say they have not been touched in some way by such evil atrocities at the hands of our so called fellow man. We can never forget. 🙏

      Like

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