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Always Remember: From Syracuse to Lockerbie

Three SU Remembrance Scholars spent spring break in Lockerbie, Scotland to see how Lockerbie residents remember the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy.

From March 15-17, we took a trip to Lockerbie, Scotland, the crash site of Pan Am Flight 103.

At Syracuse, the Remembrance program focuses on what Pan Am Flight 103 means to SU most of the time, and sometimes forgets to take into account how the town of Lockerbie was affected by the tragedy, and how its memory affects the town today. 

Lockerbie’s town motto has been “move forward.”

Jessica Liddon and Fergus Barrie, the two 2011-2012 Lockerbie Scholars, opened their houses to us and showed us around the school and town for the duration of our stay. 

We spent the first morning at Lockerbie Academy, followed by a tour of the Pan Am memorial sites. Our guide, Lockerbie Academy headmaster, Graham Herbert, welcomed us with open arms to the school. He then took us to Tundergarth Church, Dryfesdale Cemetery and Visitor’s Centre, the Town Hall and Sherwood Crescent, the site of the most destructive explosion.

The three of us were shown incredible hospitality and warmth by everyone we met in Lockerbie. Syracuse and Lockerbie were joined together under the gravest of circumstances in 1988. SInce then, that bond between us has grown and strengthened into a special connection. It is impossible to ignore the importance of keeping the two institutions connected and in doing so, keep the memory of the victims alive in the minds of the town, as well as here at SU. 

Lockerbie’s town motto has been “move forward,” and the town has indeed moved forward, but the memory of the victims and their families will remain entrenched in the history of the town, intertwined with that of the Syracuse University community.

- Emily Allen

Emily Allen: "I will preserve the memory"


As I stood on the crest of Tundergarth Hill, looking out over the field of grass, all I could see were pictures of a smoking nosecone from 1988.

I had difficulty seeing the field for what it was a beautiful patch of grass in a beautiful landscape, picturesque and undisturbed.  I looked behind me and saw the trees in front of Tundergarth Church, where bodies had hung in the trees.  Behind the church up on the top of a hill was a lone cairn that marked the spot of another victim’s final resting place. In the distance, I could see the town of Lockerbie. I tried again to grasp the enormity of the tragedy. 

I looked up at the sky and contemplated how terrifying that peaceful sky must have been when it was illuminated orange by the bomb’s explosion on the night of December 21, 1988.

Standing in the field by Tundergarth Church was by far the most moving point of the trip for me. 

It was quiet, calm, and gave me a chance to reflect. I thought about the families of the victims and how they must view that field. Is it the same way that I do?  What about the family that lives in the farmhouse behind the church? When they look up and see the cairn on the horizon, do they automatically think of the victim who died there? All I knew of Lockerbie before the trip were the photos I saw following the crash of Pan Am 103. Now, I have seen the places where those photos were taken. I hope I will now remember Lockerbie as it is, and not as it was, and that I will preserve the memory of how Lockerbie is today without forgetting the past.

Katie Lewinski: "Tundergarth has remained untouched"


Among the many powerful and emotional memories from our trip, looking out over the field across from Tundergarth Church stands out vividly in my mind.

In all of my research at SU, in the archives and online, the photo of Pan Am 103’s nose cone, etched with the inscription, “Clipper Maid of the Seas,” and surrounded by policemen and photographers in the field, has always been the first image that comes to mind whenever I think about the tragedy. It was strange, humbling and even a little unsettling to know that I was standing in the  same place where the majority of the 270 victims’ bodies lay 22 years ago.

I remember standing in the field for a long time, just trying to visualize what it looked like when the plane went down, and thinking about that infamous photo of the nose cone. I stopped myself and just let myself take in the beauty of Tundergarth instead, along with the landscape of hills, farms, and greenery that surrounds it for miles.

Today, homes at Sherwood Crescent have been reconstructed and re-landscaped, the city hall, which had been used as a morgue during the days after the tragedy, now is home to the elderly who play badminton inside on weekday mornings. Like its motto “move forward,” much of Lockerbie has moved on and a sense of normality has returned to the once devastated town. But for me, Tundergarth has remained untouched just a barren field enclosed by a stone wall and a wooden gate.

I suddenly realized how that field has served as a place of refuge and solace for so many of the victims’ families who have returned to Lockerbie after the disaster. I now had my own image of Tundergarth and Tundergarth Church and how it looks today, rather than the hundreds of photographs published following the tragedy.

Paul Stanley: "It didn't hit me until that moment that these rebuilt houses were once destroyed"

We turned into the Sherwood Crescent housing development one evening, and Fergus, my 17-year-old Scottish host, suddenly stopped the car.

He pointed to a patch of bushes between two houses and explained that it was the site of the huge crater created by the wing and the airplane’s body that fell from the destroyed plane 22 years ago. Fergus said that a family friend’s grandmother lived in this house and tragically died when the body of the plane crashed into the ground. Fergus’s friend was due to arrive at her grandmother’s house at the time of the crash but was running a few minutes late. 

I’ve seen the plane’s image after impact many times during my research as a Remembrance Scholar, but it didn’t hit me until that moment that these rebuilt houses were once destroyed, and 11 Lockerbie residents lost their lives. Fergus said his friend refuses to watch television between December 20 and Christmas because the image of the plane resting in the crater, atop the ruin of her grandmother’s house, is always shown as part of memorial coverage. She feels that she should have been in the house with her grandmother at the time of the tragedy.

Fergus gestured toward the distant tree line, which marked Rosebank Crescent, another site where pieces of the plane destroyed houses, and bodies were found hanging from the trees. Even further in the distance, in a peaceful field across from Tundergarth Church, the nosecone of the airplane landed with the pilots still buckled into their seats, Fergus said. 

I was amazed at the plane’s impact on this small town, a place surrounded by fields for miles in every direction. I was also touched by how vividly the 17-year-old Fergus could describe the tragic events that occurred nearly five years before he was born. Flight Pan Am 103 clearly impacted him deeply.


See Emily, Paul and Katie "on the road."


- Christine Mehta and Billy Holbert

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