Thursday, August 20, 2009

FSO Recalls Lockerbie

Garden of Remembrance, LockerbieImage by amandabhslater via Flickr

Last December marked the 20th anniversary of the downing of Pan Am 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland. Because I kept no diaries and took no photographs, I have only impressionistic memories of the scene. But they are still vivid even now.

I remember observing on my first visit to Lockerbie, as one of several junior officers who would play a part, that the houses appeared to have been sliced at the very angle of the giant plane’s path to earth.


Afterward, I remember feeling that I had absorbed so much sadness, often in cold and darkness. I asked for time to decompress, but could be spared for only one day. Instead of a direct train to London, I decided to detour to the Lake District, where some of my favorite poets had lived, and where I hoped my spirits could revive.

At Lake Grasmere, perhaps the most picturesque spot in Great Britain, signs of spring had started to appear: sparkling sun, bright green grass, innumerable white clouds. There, on a gently sloping hillside, I wept. Images, conversations, interactions and procedures all ran through my mind. But nothing really answered the question of “Why?” As the sun went down, I arose, dried my tears, picked up my bag and headed back to town, the bus station and London.

Excerpt from Recalling Lockerbie By Mitchell Cohn Mr. Cohn, a Foreign Service officer since 1985, is currently a cultural affairs officer in Rabat. Previous assignments include Mexico City, London, Istanbul, Jakarta, Tunis and Washington, D.C. This is excerpted from a longer piece solicited by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in honor of the Lockerbie victims’ families. Foreign Service Journal | Read in full see p.68 | April 2009

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