Lockerbie is a small town near Dumfries in Scotland, and I remembered it from once passing through. It meant nothing more, until one day in December, 1988, leaving the club after a golf game, I turned on my radio and heard some disturbing news: That a Pan-Am jet, bound from London to New York, had crashed with 259 passengers and crew. Where: Over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Later, the media would confirm that it was the work of Libyan terrorists, and in addition to the slain passengers and crew, 11 residents of Lockerbie had been killed by falling parts of the plane. That weighed on my mind for some time, for if ever I saw a town that appeared off limits to tragedy, it was Lockerbie. Typically Scottish – just a small town with a shopping center, a supermarket, a nice little hotel, and a police station. I know, for I veered off the motorway one day to take a look.
I was on my way to Manchester from the British Open, which was played at Turnberry—the one Nick Price won—to catch my Delta flight to Atlanta. It happened that the police headquarters came into view and I pulled in. It also happened that the police officer who had been on duty the night Flight 103 crashed also was on duty that afternoon, Lt. McDowall. It seemed he was not only moved to talk about the tragedy, but he also offered to take my wife and me on a tour of Lockerbie, to share with us how the people there had recovered from their horror.
The Pan-Am plane had been blown apart by a bomb stowed in some kind of recorder, it was later determined, and the fuselage had come crashing down over various parts of the countryside. It was just after supper time in Lockerbie and some residents, arising from their tables, were disturbed by the noise and walked outside, only to see bodies falling out of the sky on their lawns and in the fields. These residents had no means of knowing where the bodies had come from at the time. In the town, Officer McDowall showed us a lamp post on which one girl’s body had been snagged. An elderly lady had been found along with others, and she could only be identified by a knee replacement, she among 11 victims of one estate area upon which a huge part of the fuselage had plummeted. Among the victims was a group of Syracuse University students, home-bound from studies in London. And in the long run, one of the victims as well was Pan-Am Airways, for this was a destructive blow from which it could never recover.
These peaceful, loving people had erected a memorial in one part of the village, and in another part, converted a farm into a cemetery exclusively for some of the victims of Flight 103. This was a town with heart, whose residents were crushed that such a sinful thing should occur in their lives, and to innocent people. Officer McDowall was quite proud of his town, and how they had reacted in the face of such a tragedy wrought upon them by wretched criminals.
Well, you may have read or heard recently, that the head of the Scottish court which had convicted the only culprit arrested, and sentenced him to life in prison, had offered him an act of kindness that no such creep deserved. It had been determined that the Libyan scoundrel was dying of cancer, and an official named MacAskill turned the other cheek to the horrific tragedies the prisoner had inflicted. He pardoned the bomber, allowing him to go home to Libya to die.
There, however, the Libyan’s guilt was re-confirmed. Upon his arrival home, several of his Libyan friends gathered to celebrate his freedom, and his criminal deed. In the homes of those 259 Pan-Am victims, there was outrage at the pardon, naturally. Our President Obama was appalled, and responded with righteous venom; however, no kind of vicarious outrage can slake parental pain or anger at such a senseless loss, or a nation’s horror at such an intentional act of evil. Damn the heathen! Now, if only the diagnosis is accurate and the bastard does die, as it should be.