FSO Recalls Lockerbie

Garden of Remembrance, LockerbieImage by amandabhslater via Flickr

Last December marked the 20th anniversary of the downing of Pan Am 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland. Because I kept no diaries and took no photographs, I have only impressionistic memories of the scene. But they are still vivid even now.

I remember observing on my first visit to Lockerbie, as one of several junior officers who would play a part, that the houses appeared to have been sliced at the very angle of the giant plane’s path to earth.


Afterward, I remember feeling that I had absorbed so much sadness, often in cold and darkness. I asked for time to decompress, but could be spared for only one day. Instead of a direct train to London, I decided to detour to the Lake District, where some of my favorite poets had lived, and where I hoped my spirits could revive.

At Lake Grasmere, perhaps the most picturesque spot in Great Britain, signs of spring had started to appear: sparkling sun, bright green grass, innumerable white clouds. There, on a gently sloping hillside, I wept. Images, conversations, interactions and procedures all ran through my mind. But nothing really answered the question of “Why?” As the sun went down, I arose, dried my tears, picked up my bag and headed back to town, the bus station and London.

Excerpt from Recalling Lockerbie

By Mitchell Cohn

Mr. Cohn, a Foreign Service officer since 1985, is currently a cultural affairs officer in Rabat. Previous assignments include Mexico City, London, Istanbul, Jakarta, Tunis and Washington, D.C. This is excerpted from a longer piece solicited by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in honor of the Lockerbie victims’ families.

Foreign Service Journal | Read in full see p.68
| April 2009

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