On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 left London’s Heathrow Airport headed for New York City. At 7:03 p.m. (Greenwich Mean Time) the Boeing 747, known as Clipper Maid of the Seas, leveled off at 31,000 feet. Just north of the England-Scotland border, an explosion blew a basketball-sized hole in the fuselage. The plane, carrying 259 men, women and children, broke apart and fell to Earth. All were killed, along with 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland. What seemed at first like a horrific accident was soon proven to be the result of a terrorist bomb planted in a radio-cassette recorder inside a suitcase in the forward cargo hold.
Pan Am Flight 103 carried 35 students studying through the Syracuse University Division of International Programs Abroad (renamed Syracuse University Abroad in 2006). The Syracuse University campus was devastated, and then-Chancellor Melvin Eggers declared that “some of our best and brightest” had been lost.
They were risk takers, dreamers, planners, leaders. They stimulated their teachers to work harder and be smarter. They wanted more than a simple education. They were willing to try the new and the different. They were cherished by their families and friends.
And with terrifying suddenness, they were gone. As swiftly as a thought of death, it was harsh reality, a reality that became far too common in our time. Thirty-five students studying abroad with Syracuse University were struck down from the sky on Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, along with 224 other passengers and eleven Lockerbie residents, victims of a terrorist bombing.
Those who knew and loved these people will never forget the moment they discovered the nearly unbearable truth. They will forever carry with them in their mind the picture of where they were, who brought the news, on whose shoulders they cried
But in the long process of grief, there is the comfort that comes from other memories. Memories of the loved person in the glory of youth, bright-eyed and eager for whatever came next. Ready to be part of things. Ready for hard work. Ready for fun.
At Syracuse University, we are lucky. We only have to look out onto the campus, into a classroom, over the crowd at the Dome to see the spirit embodied in the 35 students lost to us that December day. In fact, they live on among us in the spirits of all our students, young men and women ready for the excitement of challenging and growth.
We express our hope for the future through 35 scholarships in memory of our students. The recipients, each of them risk takers and leaders, go forward to futures of limitless possibility, just as those we lost would have done had they the chance.
Thus we dedicate this scholarship in memory and in hope to those who were and those who will be.
For additional information about each Pan Am student, please visit the Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Air Disaster Archives.
Students lost in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103