Wounds of Pan Am 103 refuse to heal Cairn dedicated: Gathered for ceremonies at a memorial given by Scotland, survivors of the bombing victims are still grieving, still angry.

November 04, 1995|By Kerry A. White | Kerry A. White,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Burdened by seven years of pain and frustration, friends and relatives of the 270 people who died when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown apart over Lockerbie, Scotland, huddled in the rain at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday for the unveiling of a Scottish memorial cairn.

Dedicating a tower-shaped monument built from 270 pink sandstones, one for each person killed, President Clinton promised that the United States had not forgotten the victims and would not relent until the bombers had paid for their crimes.

The United States has indicted two Libyans in the 1988 bombing, but Libya has refused to hand them over for trial.

"This cairn reminds us we must never, never relax our efforts until the criminals are brought to justice," the president said.

"Let us take this cairn as the sign of our bond with the victims of Pan Am 103, to remember the light they brought into so many lives, to work to bring justice down on those who committed the murders, to keep our own people safe and to rid the world of terrorism and never to forget until this job is done."

The days leading up to yesterday's dedication have been marked by sharp complaints from some families who say the United States has done too little to bring the bombers to justice. One relatives' group called Terrorism Watch: Pan Am Flight 103 boycotted the dedication and demanded that the Justice Department release all its evidence against the Libyan suspects.

One relative who did attend was George Williams, a Joppatowne man whose only son was one of seven Marylanders who died in the bombing. He preceded the president's speech with an impassioned plea for Mr. Clinton and Congress to impose a naval blockade on Libyan oil sales until Libya surrendered the suspects.

"We must not lose sight of why we need this memorial," Mr. Williams told the crowd. "Terrorism is the worst form of tyranny."

The cairn, a traditional Scottish monument honoring the dead, is a gift from Scotland, whose quiet town of Lockerbie absorbed the plane's flaming wreckage and saw 11 of its residents killed. The victims' names are engraved on the cairn.

The bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American civilians. On Dec. 21, 1988, a bomb slipped aboard the Pan Am jet by two Libyan intelligence agents exploded, killing all aboard. Among the dead were 189 Americans.

Arms and other sanctions imposed by the United Nations since 1992 have failed to force the Libyan leader, Muammar el Kadafi, to surrender the suspects. The United States has proposed a total oil embargo on Libya but has run into resistance from U.S. allies in Europe who rely on Libya's high-quality crude oil.

Yesterday, as bagpipes played under a dark sky and the names of the victims were read, one by one, cousins and sisters and brothers and parents sat quietly remembering those lost. Some wept; others stared without expression at a ceremony intended to bring some semblance of emotional closure.

But some relatives stayed away, denouncing the ceremony as a kind of appeasement by an administration they say has been soft on terrorism.

"I am afraid that the world will consider the dedication of this memorial as the final word on the subject," Marina De Larrakotexea said at a news conference Thursday. Ms. De Larrakotexea's sister, Maria Nieves, died in the bombing.

"To me and my family, this is nothing but a cover-up of the murder of my sister and hundreds of others."

But Mr. Williams sees all the families' agendas as one and the same. "We share the same grief, and we have the same goals," he said in an interview.

"Many people here have come to reflect, or are hoping for some wounds to heal," said Mr. Williams, president of the relatives' group that helped arrange the ceremony. "But to me, it's the jumping-off point; a new beginning.

"I'll continue to fight until Muammar Kadafi is deposed, and the indicted terrorists and their sponsors are brought to justice. They killed my son, and they'll pay for it."

Some have chosen to keep their grief private, such as the Baltimore family of Lindsay Otenasek, who, like many victims, was a U.S. student studying in London.

Others have spoken openly about their loss. The Severna Park family of Miriam Luby Wolfe, also an exchange student in London, attended the dedication but, according to her mother, Rosemary Mild, "nothing will ever take the pain away."

Ms. Mild has written extensively about her daughter and her experience as a grieving mother. She is seeking a publisher for her book, "Miriam's Gift."

"Life without Miriam does not get any easier, even after almost seven years," she said. "She was so joyful, effervescent and loving. She was deprived of her young life with so much to give."

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