On December 21, 1988, just four days before Christmas, my husband and I were putting up our tree and getting ready to celebrate our first Christmas in our new apartment. We had upgraded from a one-bedroom walk-up to a two-bedroom walk-in.
Anyway, the tree was up, the lights were twinkling and we were enjoying a quiet moment looking at our spacious new abode, watching our brand-new TV -- upgraded from a 19-inch to a 27-inch -- when we saw the banner roll on the bottom half of the screen.
Much to our horror, we learned that there had been a plane crash over Lockerbie, Scotland. The plane, Pan-Am flight 103, Clipper Maid of the Seas, had exploded over the skies of Lockerbie, taking with it all 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 people on the ground.I don’t remember now if we knew at once that it was a bomb, but I do remember the vivid shots of the wreckage. There werepackages, some with Christmas wrappings still attached, luggage, a sneaker here, there and everywhere,an airplane seat - all the bits and pieces of lives that were in the middle of living.
The list of victims included students returning home for the holidays, families visiting and people in the course of their employment. At the final count, 189 of the 270 victims were Americans. In the days that followed, I avidly watched the tube, surfing the channels and watching the endless press coverage. I listened to the interviews of the families of the victims, the witnesses that lived in Lockerbie that were forced to see dead bodies strewn on their front lawns and the reps from the NTSB, who speculated ad infinitum on the type of bomb -- where it was located, what type of fuse, and how much was used. Rumors flew, facts were presented, and finally a determination that Libya had claimed responsibility was made.
As with all tragedies, especially if it’s not personally yours, the further away from the date, the more vaporous the memories become. My husband and I went on with living, we took vacations, moved, this time upgraded to a house, and as time passed so did the thoughts of the crash of Clipper Maid of the Seas.
Over the years, there would be news reports, specials, an announcement or two that arrests had been made and eventually, a trial. A Libyan by the name of Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was convicted of murdering 270 individuals and sentenced to life. Again, thoughts of Flight 103 receded into the background and again life went on.
Last week, in another new home, while getting ready for work, I turned on the radio only to hear that this same al-Megrahi, who was serving his term in a Scottish prison, had been released on compassionate grounds to return home to Libya. Compassionate grounds -- they’re kidding, right?
What the hell is wrong with Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who said, “Our beliefs dictate that justice be served and compassion be shown,” in announcing al-Megrahi’srelease during a news conference in Edinburgh?
What compassion did al-Megrahi afford to the victims? What compassion was afforded to the families, whose tragedy never fades? What compassion is afforded to the town of Lockerbie and its people who look at the daily reminder of the wound that healed but never vanished?
al-Megrahi, according to reports, is terminally ill with advanced prostate cancer. So why should that be any reason to let him out? He can obtain treatment for his condition in prison, he can be afforded medicines to ease his pain, but compassionate release? This person, and I use that term very loosely, who showed no remorse and would gladly do it again, should be treated compassionately? Sorry, I don’t think so.
Not for nuthin’, but you can call me cruel, you can say I have no compassion, you can even tell me that God should be the only judge, but don’t tell me al-Megrahi was sent home to his beloved Libya to die because of compassion.
Maybe it’s a deal the Scots are making with oil-rich Libya or maybe it’s part of a political prisoner exchange package, but don’t tell me compassion, because that’s a crock of haggis and the Scots know it. JDelBuono@
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