Mason finally decided to make the trip to Lockerbie eight years after the bombing. He and several photography students took a trip to the town to visit the memorial sites and capture pictures of Lockerbie almost a decade after the crash.
Mason remembers being led on a tour of all the Pan Am spots throughout the town by guides who were well acquainted with the events of that night. The tour was ironically dubbed "The Sunshine Tour," something Mason dubbed as gallows humor. The tour led the group all around Lockerbie, showing spots where the nose cone fell and where memorials had become rooted in the ground.
The last stop on the tour was the memorial for all the victims. Mason said there was not a dry eye among his group as they looked at the memorial and realized the loss. To them, the memories of the Pan Am crash and its victims were just as fresh as they were eight years before. But to Mason, the reactions of the Lockerbie tour leaders were even more powerful than the memorial itself.
He remembers looking over at the tour guides and being shocked to see they were off to the side of the group laughing to themselves.
"I thought, wow that just doesn't seem right," Mason said. "They shouldn't be laughing here."
But then, he realized something.
"For us, it was our first time experiencing this," he went on. "But they had dealt with Pan Am 103 and the aftermath for eight straight years. Every day. You have to find a way to smile again someday."
After that day, Mason said he has looked for any excuse he can get to return to Lockerbie and its people.
"It has helped me heal," Mason said.
Lockerbie wore its Christmas colors with pride in 1988 -- its Christmas trees up, colorful lights twinkling against the snow, holiday cards written and sent. But by Christmas Day, four days after the bombing of Flight Pan Am 103 shook the town, the lights were packed up. The trees were taken down. There was nothing left to celebrate.
For 10 long years, Lockerbie marked the Christmas season with a lone Christmas tree and darkness. But, in 1998, a decade after the tragedy that cast an inescapable shadow over the town's holiday season, the Let's Light Up Lockerbie public campaign brought lights back to the city center of the small Scottish town.
Let's Light Up Lockerbie, aided by a trust fund established since the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 shocked the community, raised more than 19,000 British pounds to string lights throughout the city. Mason said the reason the lights switched back on in 1998 was because Lockerbie's citizens wished for their children to celebrate a proper Christmas.
Stained Glass in a Lockerbie Church
The town had also fallen into dire need of new lights after 10 years of near neglect. During December of 1998, Lockerbie resident Marjory McQueen told The Associated Press, "The media has got a hold of this, that the lights are being switched on again in Lockerbie after 10 years. Well, we never had any."
Around the time the lights first began to twinkle again in Lockerbie, Syracuse newspaper reporter Sean Kirst was preparing to travel to Lockerbie for the very first time. Kirst had been a Post-Standard reporter at the time to plane crashed, but he was new to the team and in a bureau tucked away in Upstate New York, meaning he had less involvement in the initial coverage of the disaster beyond simply watching it unfold.
Kirst had watched for a decade as Syracuse reporters tried to bring new information to the Pan Am story and honor the victims with thoughtful pieces on each anniversary. His assignment was on the 10th anniversary was to figure out why so many families would continue to go back to Lockerbie year after year.
Before heading over to Lockerbie, he spoke with Marianne Alderman, a woman who lost her daughter in the crash. She visited the Scottish town so often and loved it so much she ended up getting remarried there.
As Kirst traveled around Lockerbie, he was struck by the compassion the townspeople showed to anyone from Syracuse.
"The people of Lockerbie took care of the memorials left by family members while they were gone," Kirst said. "They would give you flowers and take care of you."
He described Lockerbie as a haunting place that lost much of its legacy the minute Pan Am 103 crashed into its hills. When people heard the town's name, they could only associate it with the tragedy.
During the holiday season of 2001, just months since the United States buckled against an act of terrorism of its own, Melissa Chessher, chair of the magazine department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, arrived in the dark, cold heart of wintertime in Lockerbie.
Associate professorSyracuse University
But for the shadow cast over the Scottish sandstone town 13 years before, she found a Lockerbie that seemed almost physically unmarred by this tragedy.
"To drive those roads and stand in those fields today, you really would have no idea what went before," Chessher said.
"It's such a majestic and beautiful, and almost spiritual in the place where the nose cone went down."
Chessher's firsthand exploration of the field where Pan Am Flight 103 fell was quintessentially Scottish. She described the weather as "blowy" -- marked by scattershot gusts of wind and clouds sweeping across a sky pockmarked by rays of sunshine -- while at the same time, a deeply visceral experience.
She called the town undeniably adorable and charming, and the stories she found there -- a nightly class where Lockerbie men fashion walking sticks out of sheep's horns and wood, an iconoclastic milkman bringing glass bottles to citizens' doorsteps in the early hours of the morning, hillwalkers who spend their days scaling Scottish hills -- are something that could've come from an earlier time.
"There's a lot of ways that community could have responded to such a horrible crime against humanity," she said. "And to me, that they've responded with such kindness and openness and a sense of caretaking in terms of the families and memories of those who were lost.
"It's just inspiring."