Last year, I promised to write about each of the 35 Syracuse college students who died in the Pan Am terrorist attack on December 21, 1988. Unfortunately, life has a way of getting in the way of all my blogging plans! So, when I came across an essay by former Syracuse student Kate Callahan (b. 1988), I knew I wanted to share it with you. Callahan, who was selected as a Pan Am 103 Remembrance Scholar, wrote about one of the victims, Sarah Philipps, who was born in 1968. The scholars project is just one of several things the University has done to honor the memories of the students who died in 1988.
“I was born in 1988 and, just as my life was beginning, these 35 Syracuse students lost theirs. At 7:03 p.m. on the tragic winter evening of December 21, Pan Am Flight 103 fell from the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland after a terrorist bomb exploded on the plane. These 35 students studying abroad through Syracuse University were among the 270 men, women, and children who lost their lives that night. I am now a 20 year old, just as many of these students were in 1988, and I stand before you today to help their legacy live on. You may ask why, more than 20 years later, it is important that we remember these students. In a time when terrorism affects not only Americans but people all over the world, we must reflect on the preciousness of life and the valuable lessons that the bombing of Pan Am 103 provided. It was a reminder to the Syracuse University community, the nation, and the world of the sheer power terrorism can have and the importance of protecting innocent lives from acts of terrorism. Syracuse University called for tighter security on flights and notification of credible threats. This tragedy also reminds us of the sheer power of human resilience and compassion. After the tragedy, a close bond formed between Syracuse University and Lockerbie. Every year two students from Lockerbie study at Syracuse as Lockerbie Scholars. One of these scholars, Lauren Flynn, recounted her family’s accounts of Lockerbie’s response to the tragedy and how that fostered the unity between Lockerbie and the Syracuse University Community. The citizens of Lockerbie, while grieving for their own, showed a tremendous amount of caring and support to the families of the Syracuse students that lost their lives that evening. They opened their homes and hearts to Syracuse families when they came to Lockerbie after the tragedy.
Lauren told me about the women of Lockerbie that washed all of the victims’ clothes, collected their belongings, and sent them back to the victims’ families. The two communities have kept the strong bond for the last twenty years and are committed to keeping the memory of those that lost their lives alive. Let the unity of the communities remind us that in a world in which hatred and violence plague people’s lives every day, humans can overcome tragedy and loss with undying compassion for others.
As I explored the materials in the Pan Am 103 archives, I felt the strongest connection to Sarah S.B Philipps. I was first drawn to her because of her athleticism and love for the outdoors. Sarah was a track athlete (just as I was in high school), played field hockey, and loved to ski. Sarah was more fun-loving than competitive just as I committed to track because of my pure love for running and the company of my teammates. I share Sarah’s love for the outdoors and spend time with my brother skiing, hiking, and running just as Sarah did. As I got to know Sarah through the materials in the archives, I felt an even deeper connection to her and found a multitude of things we have in common. She was twenty and a fellow New Englander living just outside of Boston, one of my favorite cities. I’ve also spent my summers mentoring children as Sarah did. She was a day camp counselor and many of her friends remembered how much the children she worked with loved her. I’ve worked the last three summers as a camp counselor and thoroughly enjoyed developing relationships with the children. Another connection I drew was our shared enjoyment of cooking.
The strong connection I felt with Sarah made me deeply consider how precious life is and how someone as young, active, and life-loving as myself could have their life taken so suddenly. It has made me begin to cherish everyday and live my life to the fullest- enjoying the outdoors, reading, cooking delicious food, and most of all my family and friends. If I am selected as a Remembrance Scholar I would organize events that would celebrate Sarah’s life and reflect our shared love for the outdoors, cooking, and children. I would plan a memorial run, “Sarah’s 3.5 for 35”, a 3.5 mile run in memory of Sarah and all 35 Syracuse University students that lost their lives.
Sarah was an English major and loved poetry so the run would include a post race reception that displayed some of Sarah’s works and give Pan Am 103 victims’ families and friends and Syracuse University students a chance to display their writing and art that commemorates the lives of those lost in the Pan Am 103 tragedy. I would also plan a youth day that included writing, sports, and cooking workshops that would bring Syracuse City students to campus. These events would help the memory of Sarah and her brilliant life live on. “
The Excerpt above is from Kate’s Remembrance Scholar Essay Courtesy of 2009-2010 Winning Scholar & Author Kate Pettitt Callahan, Willimtic, CT – Syracuse 2010 (Thank you, Kate! – KGC)
Pan Am Terrorist Attack
Click here for the names and dates of birth of all the Gen-Xers killed in the Pan Am terrorist attack over Lockerbie, 1988.