By Dennis J. Martinek
Twenty years ago, Pan Am Flight 103, flying from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York’s JFK airport, was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members over Lockerbie, Scotland.
On the ground, another 11 people from Lockerbie were killed as well, bringing the total number of victims of this terrorist act to 270.
It became known for many things, among them, the largest criminal inquiry led by the smallest police force in Britain, Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.
After a 3-year investigation, murder indictments were issued against Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA) and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, the LAA station manager in Malta.
Eight years of sanctions against Libya led to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to hand them over to Scottish police in 1999.
Megrahi was convicted of murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Fhimah was acquitted. Megrahi is still appealing his conviction.
Eight seconds after the bomb exploded midair, a twenty-inch hole was punched into the side of the fuselage, by the “P” in Pan Am. The plane quickly disintegrated within seconds.
Not to get too graphic, but to ensure that no one ever forgets the impact of this horrific act, tornado force winds ripped through the fuselage, ripping the clothes off of passengers and turning otherwise everyday objects into deadly weapons.
At 31,000 feet, passengers would have quickly lost consciousness. The outside temperature at that height was -50 degrees Fahrenheit. It is reported that remarkably, the pilot, Captain MacQuarrie, may have been alive when the cockpit crashed.
When I moved to Wayland in the early 1970’s, I went to an elementary School, Claypit Hill School. I didn’t know many people at first, but as time went by, I had a lot of friends, and a lot of people that I wanted to be friends with, but was too shy to talk to.
One of those people I was too shy to approach in the 3rd or 4th grade was a little girl name Mary Johnson.
I remember Mary as being a cute little girl with dirty blonde, curly hair. I remember that her best friends were Jennifer and Julie, and for some reason, every time I saw her, I felt a flush come over me. I couldn’t find the words to even say hello.
As time moved on, I lost track of Mary. We went to different schools, but still lived in the same town, at least I did until the early 1980’s. Then I moved out of state and lost track of Mary.
It’s ironic how you never really forget some things, like the day that Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the cute little girl sitting in seat 33D, Mary Johnson, on her way home for Christmas, was murdered by a bunch of soulless sub-human beings.
Looking back, I wish that I had the nerve to tell her back in grade school that I just wanted to be her friend.
Today, I pray for her and her family.
You can read more of Dennis’ work at his blog Speak Out Southbridge