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Lockerbie

Prayer for Lockerbie Pan Am Flight 103 victims and survivors

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SYRACUSE, NY — The residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, where Pan Am Flight 103 crashed to the ground 25 years ago, are often noted for their lack of rancor over the event.

This prayer, composed by Graham Herbert, headmaster of Lockerbie Academy, and read by him in October at Syracuse University’s Remembrance Week rose-laying ceremony, captures that spirit of magnanimity and compassion. It is worth reflecting upon as we remember the 270 who lost their lives 25 years ago.

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Prayer for Lockerbie Pan Am Flight 103 Victims and Survivors

With all the earth’s people we join as one to pray for a world where we can live in peace and harmony together; a world where there is no place for war, hatred or violence; a place where each and every one of us, regardless of race, religion or gender maybe valued equally.

Today, as we remember all those who perished in the Lockerbie disaster we give thanks for the lives each one led, be it short or long, and for the joy and happiness they brought to all those who knew and loved them. We pray for their families and friends, bereft so cruelly and suddenly. We know only too well that brave faces and cheerful smiles hide dashed dreams and broken hearts and we ask that when they face their dark times they may be comforted by the love that passes all understanding.

We who are gathered here today find ourselves bound by a common cord – a cord not of our choosing. We give thanks that this cord, created unwittingly out of an act of evil that sought to restrict and control us, has strengthened year on year into an unbreakable chain, woven from the threads of happy memories and forged in loving, thankful hearts. Today, we pray as we stand united in remembrance, side by side, hand-in-hand as the links in this chain, what we may show those who sought to destroy us that they have only made us stronger.

 

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Rainbow Over Bridge Street, Lockerbie, Scotland. The left part of the rainbow is anchored at the Lockerbie Golf Course. The right, toward Tundergarth Mains. Both were major sites of fallen bodies from Pan Am 103. Photo by Lawrence Mason Jr. (Lawrence Mason Jr. )

And now, in the words of the Gaelic Blessing, we ask for peace in the hearts of everyone here today and for all those throughout the world who have been touched in any way by the tragic events over Lockerbie twenty-five years ago.

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may your God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Amen

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The Rt.Rev Professor James A. Whyte, a Prince of the Kirk, and my mentor and guide at University

As Moderator, Whyte was called on to preach at the memorial service for the victims of the Lockerbie disaster on 4 January 1989. This sermon was widely cited in the press and had a great impact:

“That such carnage of the young and of the innocent should have been willed by men in cold and calculated evil, is horror upon horror. What is our response to that?
The desire, the determination, that those who did this should be detected and, if possible, brought to justice, is natural and is right. The uncovering of the truth will not be easy, and evidence that would stand up in a court of law may be hard to obtain.
Justice is one thing. But already one hears in the media the word ‘retaliation’. As far as I know, no responsible politician has used that word, and I hope none ever will, except to disown it. For that way lies the endless cycle of violence upon violence, horror upon horror. And we may be tempted, indeed urged by some, to flex our muscles in response, to show that we are men. To show that we are what? To show that we are prepared to let more young and more innocent die, to let more rescue workers labour in more wreckage to find the grisly proof, not of our virility, but of our inhumanity. That is what retaliation means.”

The full text of this sermon was published in Laughter and Tears pp 92–5.

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