Memorials mark Lockerbie attack anniversary

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm •  Published: December 21, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Families of some of the 270 people who died in an airliner bombing 25 years ago gathered for memorial services Saturday in the United States and Britain, honoring victims of a terror attack that killed dozens of American college students and created instant havoc in the Scottish town where wreckage of the plane rained down.

Bagpipes played and wreaths were laid in the Scottish town of Lockerbie and mourners gathered for a moment of silence at London's Westminster Abbey, while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told victims' relatives at Arlington National Cemetery that they should take comfort in their unity even if time cannot erase their loss.

"We keep calling for change, and fighting for justice, on behalf of those no longer with us. We rededicate ourselves — and our nation — to the qualities that defined the men and women that we lost," Holder said.

The events marked the 25th anniversary of the explosion of Pan Am 103, a New York-bound flight that exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after takeoff from London on Dec. 21, 1988. Many of the victims were American college students flying home for Christmas, including 35 Syracuse University students participating in study abroad programs.

The attack, caused by a bomb packed into a suitcase, killed 259 people aboard the plane, and 11 others on the ground also died.

The Arlington ceremony took place beside a cairn of 270 blocks of red Scottish sandstone, a memorial structure dedicated to the attack. Wreaths flanked the structure, the ceremonial "Taps" was played and victims' relatives recited the names of the people killed.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller, said he would never forget the haunting sight of the victims' personal belongings — a white sneaker, Christmas presents, a Syracuse sweat shirt, photographs — at a warehouse in Lockerbie when he traveled there to investigate the case as a Justice Department prosecutor.

Whitney Davis lost her younger sister Shannon, a Syracuse student, and friends in the explosion. She said she learned of the attack after returning home from Syracuse, which she also attended. There was initial hope that survivors would be found and uncertainty that the explosion was an act of terror. But the grief was immediate.

"I was angry. I was in disbelief. Mom was in shock, my brother was not saying much and I just was throwing snowballs at the sky and wondering how this could have happened," said Davis, of Bend, Ore., who brought her 8-year-old daughter to the memorial in Virginia.

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