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Pan Am Flight 103 Statement of Remembrance
December 21, 2005Read at the Wall of Remembranceby The Rev. Thomas V. WolfeDean of Hendricks Chapel
At this very moment, the surviving family members of the victims of Pan Flight 103 are gathered at the memorial cairn in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. As we begin our observance in this special place set aside for remembrance, we extend our hearts to these families.
Each year, on this darkest day of solstice, we gather together and walk to this Wall of Remembrance. It is here that we listen to the chimes toll, one for each of the 35 Syracuse University students who were killed when Pan Am flight 103 was bombed by terrorists in the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland. We place a light to stand against this dark season and this dark event. On this day in 1988, at 2:03 p.m. (EST), our world was shaken to its core. The individuals memorialized on this wall were just hours from reuniting with their families after a semester of studying abroad. They were coming home with stories and experiences that had enriched them. Their minds had been stretched and their commitment to international engagement had been solidified. And then, in an instant, they were gone.
Today, we gather here to remember them. In the breeze, we hear their laughter. In the silence, we remember their thoughts. In our minds, we see their faces and know again the joy and the hope they possessed. They are gone, but in so many ways they remain.
But this act of remembrance is inextricably woven into another significant and relevant purpose. This tragic event has called us all to commit ourselves to examine and understand the conditions that exist in our world that lead to terrorism. We live in a violent world fraught with tensions among cultures, ethnic groups, religions and nationalities. Our assumptions about each other are often false and lead to misunderstandings that can lead to unchecked hatred, which can escalate to violence. Violence becomes self justifying.
These students chose to live outside of their own culture. They chose to seek a deep understanding of the world and its complexities. On this day of remembrance, may we renew our efforts to seek out the other, whether it be an individual or a group, and work to expose all of the false assumptions that foster wrong conclusions that result in fracturing the global community.
May the names on this memorial serve to remind us of the cost to the whole global human family when we let ignorance prevail. Our hope is to achieve an understanding that leads to peace. This time of remembrance is dedicated to that end.