Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21

Some three miles east of Lockerbie, on the road to Langholm, is Tundergarth Church.

In the cemetery adjacent to the church there is a small stone building. This is where I go to remember those who died when Pan Am flight 103 was blown up by a terrorist bomb on December 21, 1988. Of course, just outside Lockerbie itself, there is the Garden of Remembrance and the Lockerbie Disaster Memorial, in Dryfesdale cemetery. But the memorial at Tundergarth is very special.

One reason it's there is because the nose section of the airliner came down in a field just across the road from the church. You will have seen the photograph - everyone has.

Tundergarth is a place to visit on one's own. I have often taken visitors there. I wait outside and let them explore the place in their own time. It is one small room. On a table against one wall there are two books. This is one - and turning the pages of this book brings home the magnitude of what happened.

Each page of the book has one name, beautifully inscribed thereon. Just one name on each page, and as you turn over the pages the extent of the loss becomes more and more evident. It is a large book.

It is one thing to say that 270 people died. It is quite another to give each of these people a name.

Back in 1988, there was no Internet nor World Wide Web. Today of course, one can just search for information on the bombing, and about those who died. Having opened the book today, randomly at the name of Sarah Susannah Buchanan Philipps, it was to find she was one of the thirty-five students from Syracuse University who were killed that night. She is not forgotten. Material about her is held in the Syracuse archives, see here, and you can read this personal tribute on the Web.

On the same desk is a copy of On Eagles' Wings, a collection of photos and information on all 270 people who were killed. This book, first published in 1990, was compiled in remembrance of the victims, by Georgia Nucci, whose son Christopher Jones was aboard the flight. Most of the information in the book was collected from the victims’ families and was gathered from obituaries. Some pages are left blank respecting the wishes of the families.

I have never been able to read more than a few of the pages when visiting Tundergarth. It is an emotional experience to even try. Away from the memorial, one can appreciate Georgia's work more dispassionately. The book is now available online, via Syracuse University archives, see here.

Just reading the prefaces to the first and second editions, pages 6 and 7, gives an understanding of Georgia's motives, and why there are blank pages.
There is a Visitors' Book too, at Tundergarth. And it is emotional to read the entries in that. Twenty-eight years on, family and friends still visit Lockerbie to remember those who died. They are not forgotten.

Terrorism never seems to be out of the news these days. The many victims should always be more than a number in a news report. This sandstone plaque is on the wall at the Tundergarth memorial. One hopes that the sentiment is true as we go forward into a new year.

Photos © Skip Cottage.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob, firstly can I wish you a Merry Christmas and a good New Year and say thank you for the rather excellent posts on SC this year - there's always something interesting to read about!

    Although I was at the Academy in the late 1970's I've rarely been back to Lockerbie, and since that terrible disaster, just the once. I really should, there's still an air of unreality to it, but reading this post has made things more, how shall we say 'real'. It is really very touching - you've said a lot in few words and pictures.

    Sadly for the world the Doomsday Clock is still figured at 3 Minutes To Midnight, and I can't see things changing anytime soon, from unbridled greed, to sabre-rattling to hate and more hate and the continued rape of the planet and the destruction of the natural world, we're in a damn terrible place.
    But one can't give up hope that maybe things will turn out right - if everyone strived to turn these things around, they could.
    Sadly though, overcoming mankind's inherent selfishness and blinkered bloody-mindedness is an uphill struggle, if not impossible.

    Sorry to be so negative - it's just the world strikes me as being like that some times.
    There's always hope though, isn't there . . . finger's crossed for some sensible thinking and changed attitudes!

    And on that note . . ttfn . . stay warm at Skip!