Thirty years ago today, Pan Am 103, a Boeing 747 that departed Heathrow for JFK, was blown up at just after 7pm while at 31,000 feet over Scotland.
A terrorist bomb smuggled aboard in a piece of transferred luggage had detonated in the hold. (That is why they now match bags to passengers actually aboard.) The flight deck and first-class cabin were within seconds sheared off from the rest of plane. The catastrophe unfolded so quickly nothing at all was heard from the pilots, and evidently no emergency steps were taken aboard; dead flight crew were found on the ground still strapped into their seats.
All 259 aboard were murdered, as well as 11 on the ground in the town of Lockerbie as the destroyed plane came down in pieces atop homes. Among those who were murdered on the flight were 35 Syracuse University (New York) study abroad students who’d been in Florence and London. To US university students of their generation who traveled as they did, that atrocity is seared forever into our being and our memory.
“Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the restless day,
And count it fair.”
~ from “Courage,” by Amelia Earhart.