Lockerbie bombing: Services mark 25th anniversary

Dryfesdale Cemetery Local people joined dignitaries in placing flowers at the cemetery

Wreaths have been laid at Dryfesdale Cemetery in Lockerbie to mark the 25th anniversary of the bombing of an aircraft above the town.

Memorial events are to be held in the UK and the US to mark the attack in which 270 people were killed.

The wreath-laying in Lockerbie will be followed by a service in a local church.

The south of Scotland town was devastated when Pan Am flight 103 was blown from the skies in 1988.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and Lord Wallace, Advocate General for Scotland, were among those who took part in the wreath-laying ceremony at Dryfesdale Cemetery.

'We welcome you'

The service was led by the Rev John MacLeod, while readings and prayers were given by Major Kingsley Layton, commanding officer at Lockerbie Corps, the Salvation Army, and Lord Lieutenant Jean Tulloch, representing the Queen.

Jane Schultz, mother of Thomas: "I wanted to be in the place where Thomas took his last breath"

During the service Rev MacLeod said: "It is 25 years after the day on which certain men chose to set aside their humanity and destroy the lives of 270 people in the air over this area of Scotland and here in the little town of Lockerbie - not only their lives but also those who survived, families and friends.

"What we the people of Lockerbie in this area will never tire of saying is we welcome you once again to this place where you know you are always welcome.

"In doing so we seek to comfort and console you."

'Fight for justice'

Craig Lynes, a representative of the American government, spoke at the event.

He said: "We have seen changes great and small throughout the world in the years since December 21st 1988.

"It is with pride that we declare once again our unshakeable commitment to continue the fight against terrorism. We owe that to each of you.

"Nobody can return what was taken from you that night. But we can and will continue to work and to fight for justice."

Dryfesdale cemetery, Lockerbie ceremony Families and relatives attend a memorial service in Dryfesdale cemetery to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lockerbie

Speaking to BBC News after the wreath-laying, Mr Salmond said: "Out of disaster, there are the bonds of friendship.

"Lockerbie has been a welcoming place for the relatives of those who died, and over the last 25 years has taken as good care of people as it possibly could.

"I don't think you ever move on, you certainly never forget, but people do rebuild their lives and many have."

Other gatherings marking the anniversary of Britain's worst-ever terrorist attack include a remembrance service being staged at Westminster Abbey in London.

In the US, a ceremony will take place at the memorial cairn in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington DC.

The Lockerbie bombing remains the deadliest act of terrorism ever committed in the UK and until the attacks of 9/11 it was also responsible for the biggest single loss of American lives in such an attack.

The Boeing 747 was just over half an hour into its flight from London to New York when it exploded, seconds before 19:03 UK time, on 21 December 1988.

'Devastation and horror'

All 243 passengers and 16 crew died, and a further 11 people were killed in their homes when wreckage hit the ground in Lockerbie.

Canon Patrick Keegans, who was parish priest at Lockerbie at the time of the bombing, said the anniversary had "brought to the surface many, many emotions people have had over the past 25 years".

"Other anniversaries have been calmer. This one makes us remember the devastation and horror that all of us experienced 25 years ago," he told BBC Breakfast.

Analysis

It was the shortest day of the year and, for Lockerbie, the longest and darkest night.

For many years this little town has been torn between respect for the dead and a desire to move on and rebuild.

Today though it chose, once again, to stand still in remembrance and to offer a hand of friendship to those who had come from afar to do the same.

189 Americans died aboard Pan Am flight 103 and many of those in Dryfesdale Cemetery had travelled across the Atlantic to feel closer to their loved ones.

The 25th anniversary of the bombing may mark the last big memorial service at this windswept spot.

But for those who stood here today in the gathering gloom, the grief was undimmed and the bonds unbroken as the people of Lockerbie again opened their doors and their hearts.

The majority of the passengers and crew on board the aircraft were US citizens.

In the United States, a service of "hope and remembrance" is planned at the Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University in New York state, which lost 35 students who had been studying at its London campus. The service will be followed by a procession to its Wall of Remembrance.

A further service will also take place at the university's Lubin House in New York.

Events at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia will centre on its Pan Am 103 Memorial Cairn.

It is made of 270 blocks of Scottish sandstone - one for each of the victims of the bombing.

Events in Lockerbie will see a wreath-laying at the Dryfesdale Cemetery in the afternoon with a service at the Dryfesdale Church in the evening which will have the theme of "looking forward".

One man, Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was convicted of the bombing at a special Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands in 2001.

He was released from jail on compassionate grounds in 2009 after he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

He died at his home in Tripoli last year.

In an interview with the BBC, his family have repeated their intention to pursue an appeal against Megrahi's conviction.

His brother Abdel-Hakim Al-Megrahi said the family "wanted the truth to be revealed".

He also said he was hopeful the Libyan government would help to fund the appeal.

Truth 'never known'

Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, said the truth behind the bombing might never be known but "if there was a Libyan mastermind, it was Gaddafi".

"It was such a shocking and enormous atrocity that clearly nobody was going to rest until the truth was found," he told BBC Breakfast.

"I don't think the truth possibly ever will be found so perhaps we will be talking about this for years to come."

Lockerbie memorial The names of those who died are recorded at a memorial in Lockerbie

UK Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the "fortitude and resilience" of those affected by the Lockerbie bombing.

He said: "Over the last quarter of a century much attention has been focused on the perpetrators of the atrocity. Today our thoughts turn to its victims and to those whose lives have been touched and changed by what happened at Lockerbie that night.

"To families, friends, neighbours, loved ones, and all those caught up in the painful process of recovery, let us say to them: our admiration for you is unconditional.

"For the fortitude and resilience you have shown. For your determination never to give up. You have shown that terrorist acts cannot crush the human spirit. That is why terrorism will never prevail."

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be attending the Westminster Abbey ceremony, as will Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael.

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell will attend the service at the Arlington National Cemetery.

More on This Story

BBC South Scotland

Weather

Dumfries

Min. Night 7 °C

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • UndergroundTravel books

    BBC Culture goes underground to discuss what Londoners are reading on the go

Programmes

  • Evan Blass (known as evLeaks on Twitter)Click

    One of the world's top technology leakers - Evan Blass - explains how he gathers his secrets

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.