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The Lockerbie Bombing: 35th Anniversary

For those of you who do not know, Lockerbie is a small town in the south of Scotland. As a place, the town never was on my radar until my parents moved there around a year ago. This move opened my eyes to the tragic history the town has suffered but also to its ability to move on and make the most of a terrible situation.

On December 21st 1988, a tragic and very serious terrorist attack happened in Lockerbie. A Pan Am flight headed from Heathrow to New York crashed an hour into its flight killing a total of 270 people. Most of these people were from Syracuse, New York and passengers were college students from there who were heading home for the Christmas holidays. Everyone aboard was killed and 11 people from the town of Lockerbie were also killed when the jet ploughed through part of the town, leaving this to be the deadliest terrorist attack ever to be carried out on British soil. This Christmas we commemorate 35 years since this harrowing incident. I will be spending the anniversary in the town of Lockerbie myself.  

Two years ago in January, I travelled out to Syracuse, New York as part of an exchange programme with the University where I was studying in Scotland. I was to study at a college in Syracuse for 6 months. I was aware of the Lockerbie bombing and knew about its relation to Syracuse. I tried to discuss the event with my peers who knew very little or nothing about this dark history. I had assumed that because the city of Syracuse had lost so many people in this attack even my generation would have been clued up on the matter, but this was not the case. I specifically recall telling a close Syracusian friend of mine about the bombing. I remember how shocked she was to hear the horrors and she felt frustrated that this history had never been told to her. However, I like to think of this as a memorable moment in my life. Being from Scotland, I was talking to someone from Syracuse, New York about one of Britain’s most tragic events. In 2023 we were sitting down and talking about a history that we could both have been a part of if we were alive 35 years ago. 

When I arrived home from my time studying abroad, I was told by my parents that they would be moving to Lockerbie. I could not believe that within 1 year, I had studied in Syracuse and my parents were moving to Lockerbie. Two niche places in the world you do not exactly hear about on the news very often. Two very niche places, thousands of miles apart that were affected so badly by one terrible, nightmare incident. 

After the move happened, I came down and started to explore this peaceful little border town. With Greggs, Home Bargains and Tesco being some of the main hotspots, it is easy to get a little bored here. However, there are beautiful countryside walks and lovely people who inhabit this small part of the world. Fast forward to now, I am sitting working in a lawyer’s office in the middle of the high street.  

Recently, Lorraine Kelly made a documentary about the Lockerbie bombing to commemorate the 35 years that have passed. She looks back at reporting it and the PTSD she suffered just from seeing the aftermath of the gruesome disaster. I appreciate that the town of Lockerbie is still being honoured and remembered for being a resilient and strong place. 

The main reason for my great respect for Lockerbie is the strong relationship the town and more particularly the school has built with Syracuse. Out of the Pan Am horror, Syracuse and Lockerbie have grown a relationship based on community healing and cultural exchange. In the years since the bombing, Syracuse has maintained strong connections with many of the families who lost loved ones, as well as the emergency service workers who first responded to the site of the nightmare. Today, the Lockerbie Trust ensures an ongoing relationship between Syracuse and Lockerbie. Two graduates of the local high school in Lockerbie are awarded a scholarship to study at Syracuse University’s home campus In New York State every year. Here they serve as ambassadors between the two communities. Every year since 1990, 35 students have been named ‘Remembrance Scholars’ as a living memorial of the Syracuse student victims. This is a highly prestigious honour. Those who receive it should be proud of themselves

 I am proud to live in Lockerbie. I am also proud to have lived in Syracuse for a short while. The people of these two places are not so different. There are families from both cities who still remember the tragedy and mourn their loved ones. The people of Lockerbie who lived through this ghastly attack have known pain, the like of which most of us will never know. They deserve remembrance and all the love and respect in the world this Christmas. So, on the 21st of December 2023, please remember this little town and what it has suffered. The garden of remembrance on the outskirts of the town will be busy that day.


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