For Remembrance Scholars, connections and legacies run deeper than just one week

Three of the 2015 Remembrance Scholars reflect on the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing they have chosen to represent.

Juan Rangel sometimes walks by the Livingston Avenue house that Alex Lowenstein lived in during his junior year. Lowenstein was a Syracuse University student and a victim of the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that left 270 dead, including 35 SU students who were coming home from a semester abroad on Dec. 21, 1988.

Photo: Daniel Hinton

Rangel, a television-radio-film senior, said he began to cry when reading through the archives about Alex’s time spent on campus. “He was a normal Syracuse student. He lived in BBB his freshmen year and South Campus his sophomore year,” Rangel said. “That was the moment I realized he was a real person and that he actually walked through these halls.”

Sara McNamara and Mehak Ali both studied abroad in Florence, Italy, experiences they feel formed a connection to the victims of the bombing.

Rangel, McNamara and Ali are three of the 35 Remembrance Scholars for the 2015-16 academic year, each scholar representing one of the 35 Syracuse students who died.

McNamara, an anthropology and earth sciences senior who represents Richard “Rick” Monetti, said she printed out the application materials to become a Remembrance Scholar right before boarding her plane back to the United States from her semester abroad. “I’m sitting on the plane and I have these in front of me and am trying to write, and I think, I am in the exact same position they were in flying home, excited to go home to see their families they hadn’t seen in four months.”

She decided she couldn’t write her application essays while on the plane, saying their hope of returning home tragically never happened for them.

Similarly, Ali said studying abroad her freshman year, which is when she first learned about the bombing, helped put herself in the position of the victims.

“It made me take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what was going on,” Ali said. “It wasn’t about me or my life; it was about the lives of people surrounding me.”

The public relations and psychology senior puts that philosophy to use. She volunteers with Empathy Matters through Hendricks Chapel and with smART, a program that helps local kids “get out their frustrations through art,” Ali said.

She represents Wendy Anne Lincoln, who, like Ali, had a passion for photography and for meeting new people. “Whenever I meet new people, I want to know what their story is, what their dreams are, and I like to think Wendy did too.”

Hopes and dreams became a theme for this class of Remembrance Scholars; it is how they choose to look back and act forward, which is the slogan of Remembrance Week, a week that commemorates the 35 students killed in the bombing. This year's scholars made a "Wall of Hopes and Dreams" in the Huntington Beard Crouse Hall plaza, asking current students to write down their hopes and dreams on cutouts of white doves and displaying them with the hopes and dreams of the Pan Am victims.

“By striving for your dreams and accomplishing them, you’re honoring their memory because you’re working toward something they never got the chance to do,” said McNamara, who has spent the past three summers in Barbados working on an archeology project of an old sugar plantation.

She played on the university’s Quidditch team during her freshman year, which is where she first met Rangel. The two now consider themselves to be best friends. Rangel said they separately decided to apply to be Remembrance Scholars and separately chose their two scholars, Lowenstein and Monetti.

In their research, they discovered that Lowenstein and Monetti were friends themselves, and they were roommates in London. When setting up chairs in front of Hendricks Chapel to represent the seats on the plane the Syracuse victims were sitting in, they discovered that Lowenstein and Monetti were sitting right next to each other.

“I like to think that our relationship is in remembrance of their relationship,” said Rangel, a founding member of Syracuse’s chapter of Delta Kappa Alpha, a cinema fraternity that helps connect students of any major with an interest in film.

Rangel remembers looking at pictures of the 35 victims in the Panasci Lounge of the Schine Student Center during his freshman year, where he connected instantly with one of them - Lowenstein. “One of the pictures was of Alex standing over a hill with his arms raised high, basically a celebration of life.”

Rangel, McNamara and Ali all want to continue to act forward in memory of the Pan Am 103 victims well after Remembrance Week ends. It was one of the reasons McNamara connected with the Monetti family, who lobbied for air-safety regulations. “How would I want my family to respond if this was me?” McNamara said. “It was honorable what his family did to get closure for themselves, but also to want to help others.”

The Remembrance Scholars hope to continue educating the community about the tragedy and honoring the victims they are representing.

“Once you’re a Remembrance Scholar, you’ll always be a Remembrance Scholar,” Rangel said. “And you’ll always be representing your victim.”

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