Remembrance Week 2016 honors the past, pushes for change in the future

A week of events that began on Monday paid tribute to the 35 Syracuse University students killed on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.

Over two decades ago, an unthinkable tragedy struck the Syracuse University community: Pan Am flight 103, a flight carrying 35 SU students returning home for the holidays after a semester in London, never reached its destination. It crashed over a residential area of Scotland after a bomb exploded on-board on Dec. 21, 1988. Each year, SU hosts a Remembrance Week to honor the 270 lives that were lost.

Photo: Stephen Sartori

This year, Remembrance Week 2016 began with a candlelight vigil on Monday evening, an event that has become a tradition. Remembrance Scholars, 35 seniors who are selected through an application process for their commitment to service and academic excellence, and represent one of the students that passed away, planned the events. They focused on the theme of “looking back and acting forward.”

This year’s scholars created events that encouraged reflection and critical thought on how to prevent tragedies like the Pan Am flight from occurring. One event, called “Doing Memory, Doing Justice,” was also held on Monday and featured a panel discussion on the issues that occurred after the bombing of the flight, such as Islamophobia.

Panelists Charisse L'Pree and Lynne Jackson discussed race relations and prejudices, topics that have recently been prevalent in American media. They expressed how political figures and media professionals have used moments like Pan Am flight 103’s bombing to label Muslims as terrorists.

L’Pree and Jackson questioned why it was that there have been large scale acts of violences by white males in America, yet those males have been seen as victims of mental illness while Muslims in general have been deemed terrorists for instances of violence. They aimed to inspire students to address these issues.

“I think it’s important to be involved and vocal about these things,” Jackson said.

Dialogue about Islamaphobia continued on Wednesday with the event “Interfaith Dialogue: Islamophobia on Campus” in Hendrick’s Chapel.

On Thursday, the Remembrance Scholars hosted a screening of the Emmy Award-winning documentary “My Brother’s Bomber,” a 2015 film that followed director Ken Dornstein in his search to meet Lybian officials that may have been involved in the Pan Am flight bombing. Dornstein, who lost his brother on the Flight 103, spoke to the audience and answered questions on how this project not only brought him a sense of closure, but honored his brother’s life and the lives of all of the flight’s victims.

“My way of remembrance became bound up in my work as a journalist and filmmaker,” Dornstein said.

The final day of Remembrance Week concluded on Friday with the traditional Rose Laying Ceremony at the Wall of Remembrance, a convocation that discussed the lives of the victims and the Dove Balloon Release on the University Quad.

Erin Kavanough, a senior who has been to past events of Remembrance Week throughout her time as a student, said that she continues to be touched by the stories of the victims. “It was really heartwarming and sad,” Kavanough said of this year’s program. “It was a mix of emotions.”

Alana Siegal a scholar who represents Shannon Davis (one of the SU students on Pan Am Flight 103), said she continues to feel connected to the victim through archives and stories of Davis’ life.

“A big part of acting forward is educating the Syracuse community about what happened,” Seigal said. “Embodying the spirit of the victims and finding the light in times of tragedy is how we look back and act forward.”

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