Skip to comments.20 years is too soon to forget, or forgive (Pan Am Flight 103)
Posted on 01/11/2009 5:54:19 PM PST by Coleus
A jailed Libyan terrorist, convicted in the bombing 20 years ago of Pan Am Flight 103, has incurable cancer and wants to be released on bail pending his appeal. Eileen Walsh has a message for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi: "Too bad." She lost her father, brother and sister, who were aboard that plane when it blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. "The big thing for me right now is keeping Megrahi in jail," the Glen Rock resident said. "Megrahi is trying to get a retrial because he is dying of cancer, but I don't give a damn." It has been two decades since that night of horror on Dec. 21 1988, when the jumbo jet exploded, killing all 259 aboard including 38 New Jerseyans and 11 others on the ground.
Many of the loved ones of those who died have moved on, raised families, pursued careers. As a group, they lobbied successfully for an investigation of the bombing and the trial of two suspects. They have forced the governments to increase airport security and won millions in reparations from Libya, which grudgingly took responsibility for the attack. They have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of global kindness. But 20 years later, the grief and anger still simmer. "No saying is less true than 'time heals all wounds,' " said Wendy Giebler Sefcik. The Hasbrouck Heights native had been married only nine months when she lost her 29-year-old husband, William D. "Jay" Giebler Jr.
He was a government bond broker, and the newlyweds were living in London. Sefcik had flown home to New Jersey the week before her husband boarded Flight 103. "You learn to live with that gaping hole in your life," she said. "That constant pain is a reminder of all that you cherished." Officials would not let her have an open coffin at Jay's funeral, Sefcik said. Months later, Scottish police sat with her in a Lockerbie warehouse while she viewed photos of her husband. He had fallen nearly six miles before hitting the ground, but his body was still intact. All his injuries were internal.
"Every bone was broken, he was shattered" on the inside, she said. But "he was absolutely perfect, not a mark on him." Until then, she had held on to vague hopes that he had been mugged on the way to the airport, hit over the head, suffered amnesia and was wandering, still alive. Confirming his death was "a huge part of the grieving process," she said. "You have to take what comfort you can get," said Sefcik, who went on to earn a law degree, remarry and have three sons.
Eileen Walsh will mark the 20th anniversary Sunday of the downing of Flight 103 by visiting a Paramus cemetery where her father, Warren Max Buser, and sister, Lorraine Frances Buser Halsch, are buried. Warren was a 62-year-old civil engineer and longtime Glen Rock resident. Lorraine, 31, taught elementary school and was pregnant with her second child. The body of her brother, Michael Warren Buser, was never recovered from the debris that rained down on rooftops and yards. The Little Ferry resident was a 34-year-old advertising executive. She also will visit a memorial bench dedicated by Glen Rock. Then, "in typical Buser fashion, I'll be watching football, because life goes on," she said.
It never gets easy
About 500 members of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, a group representing relatives and friends, will observe the anniversary with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. They will gather at a memorial cairn, a 10-foot stone tower of 270 reddish sandstone blocks, donated by the town of Lockerbie, and representing the 270 victims. The monument was built by Francis Klein of Flemington, whose daughter Patricia Ann died on Flight 103. The victims group fought hard for an Act of Congress to have the cairn placed in a section of Arlington Cemetery not reserved for military burials. Today's ceremony includes the reading of the victims' names and an address by Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff.
The flight, from London to New York, included 35 students from Syracuse University, studying abroad. There will be a separate ceremony in Syracuse on Sunday. Closure is not a word that works for Kara Weipz of Mount Laurel, who lost her brother Rick Monetti, 20. "To me, it's just an awful term we throw around," said Weipz, current president of the victimss group. "In my mind, it's a myth, something like the boogeyman." Closure for Weipz is getting up every day to experience the many joys in her life, and share them with her husband and three children. "But in all this happiness, there is a little bit of sadness because my brother is not here" to share these joys, such as the World Series win this year by Monetti's beloved Philadelphia Phillies, she said.
"I don't necessarily believe it gets easier," she said. "I think you just get used to the pain. Sometimes it's worse, sometimes not as bad." Bert Ammerman of River Vale put off grieving for his brother, Tom, for several years after the bombing by leading the families' quest for answers and justice. "As long as I did it, I didn't have to deal with Tommy being dead," said Ammerman. Tom, one of five athletic Ammerman siblings, was in shipping, and the father of two young daughters. He had been the best man at Bert's wedding. His body was identified by an appendix scar and a credit card in the wallet that was found in his back pocket.
Bert Ammerman eventually confronted reality. "He's dead. He got blown out of the air at 31,000 feet. No matter what I do, that won't change," he said. "You don't ever forget the senselessness. But in memory of our loved ones, we did some positive things. There's more to life than this senseless thing, this evil. There are so many good people. You see it all reflected in what we did," said Ammerman, principal of Parsippany High School, and the father of four daughters. "None of this would have happened if the families hadn't bonded together," he said.
For all they accomplished, the Pan Am survivors still want to know who ordered the bombing of Flight 103. Ammerman believes Syria and Iran hatched the plot and handed it to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to carry out. Most believe Megrahi was just a low-level operative. Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent, was convicted of the bombing by a special court in the Netherlands in 2001. He is being held in a Scottish prison and has appealed his life sentence. At 56, he has prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. In November, a judge denied his request for bail, pending his appeal, but left open the possibility of reconsidering that ruling.
"I want him to be kept in jail," Sefcik said. "He is absolutely guilty of the death of all these people. But my feeling is he wasn't working alone. The true powers will never be brought to justice. The man who sits in prison is a pawn in a much bigger plot." Walsh attended four days of Megrahi's trial and stared fixedly at him through 6 inches of security glass and felt "hatred, absolute hatred." Her reaction to Megrahi's guilty verdict was, "'well, we got one.'" But, she added, the two Libyan suspects were "just mules. I would have liked to get Gadhafi, or the mastermind, whoever he was." Walsh hopes Megrahi is not granted a retrial, but, if he is, "I'll be over there." "When I see people who can forgive people who murdered their loved ones," Walsh said, "I don't know if they're crazy or if I should just admire them."
I am not sure exactly how those relatives feel but that bomber can take his case to a higher court. I’m sure there’s no appeal there.
Forgiveness is a difficult issue I'll leave to the Christians. (Been through that, but it's private.)
This lady has the right attitude! Too many Americans care more for their country's enemies than for their kin or fellow citizens.
I don’t see why this terrorist ought to get out of jail because he is dying of cancer. He is going to die anyway & it may as well be in prison where he belongs.
Listen carefully. Forgiveness is expected HOWEVER, there is also justice for what was done which is also very clear in Scripture, a price to be paid. That's why punishment is to be left to the governments/courts not to the individual for revenge.
Do they fall short? You bet, many times. In this life "justice" is but a shadow of true justice but nevertheless, we are to mete out justice best we can.
Amen, brushcop, and here’s to justice.
“Forgiveness is a difficult issue I’ll leave to the Christians.”
I guess I’m not a very good Christian.
**...a price to be paid.**
Correct, and there is no record of Jesus Christ pleading with the Romans/Jews to spare the lives of the criminals hanging on each side of him at Calvary.
Yes and a dying terrorist can do much more damage out of prison to add to his thoughts of martyrdom and his virgin count let him stew in his juices and rot in his cell.
Exactly. Why not let him rot in his cell until death comes & gets him. Maybe he can meet his virgins in h-ll for all the evil he & his fellow terrorists caused innocent people. I have no forgiveness for him or any other terrorist. I just can’t find it in my heart.
Hey, I’m all in favor of the “release” of Megrahi......
.....from an airplane, at 35,000 feet, with no parachute*.....
*not that a parachute would be of much help from 35,000 feet without a special protective suit with oxygen etc..... which will also be denied to him.
I think that would be too kind. Let him die slowly & in pain.
Bob Monetti mourned on Sept. 11, and not just for the 2,975 killed in 2001. He mourned, too, and mostly, for his son Richard, who, but for a now almost forgotten act of terrorism, would have been 40 that day. The night before, on Sept. 10, not far from the Monetti's Cherry Hill home, Dan and Susan Cohen of Cape May Court House mourned, too. Because, on that day, but for the same act of terrorism, their only child, their daughter Theo, too, would have been 40. "It's unspeakable what happened, and it just gets worse," Dan Cohen says.
Theodora and Richard and 268 others, many of them Syracuse University students from New Jersey returning home for Christmas from a semester abroad, were killed when a bomb tore their airplane from the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988. Eleven Scottish residents were killed on the ground when plane parts hit their homes. A Libyan agent, Abdelbaset Megrahi, was convicted by a Scottish court, but his case is now on appeal. The Monettis and the Cohens and the other families now have to endure, not just the continuing pain of 20 years, but, more recently, the images of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cordially meeting Moammar Ghadafi, the Libyan dictator and the man held ultimately responsible for the act of terrorism.
"The Bush administration is just so desperate to have Ghadafi viewed as a success," said Monetti, who, for years, led the organization representing relatives of those killed aboard Pan Am Flight 103. His daughter, Kara Weipz, now heads it. "It's all just so sleazy," Monetti said. Said Cohen: "What happened to our children doesn't matter at all." So many forces are working to reduce the Monettis and Cohens to minor roles despite horrific losses. Powerful forces driven by international politics and oil money. "We mark anniversaries and are ignored," Cohen said.
The Bush administration has held up Ghadafi's Libya as an example of the success of its efforts in the Middle East. In the face of threats from the United States, Ghadafi forswore development of nuclear weapons and terrorism.
The response was the gradual lifting of sanctions against the North African nation, which, in turn, was tied to the payment of compensation to the victims of Pan Am 103. "Bribes," Cohen said. "We were bribed with money to stop complaining." The Cohens pushed for retaliation against, not negotiations with, Ghadafi. Under the plan, each victim's family eventually would receive more than $10 million, while sanctions against Libya were dropped. After receiving an initial payment, the Cohens opted out, refusing to take more. The plan, however, hit a snag and payments were suspended. Recently, an agreement was reached under which a "humanitarian fund" would be created to compensate, not just the victims of Pan Am 103, but also Libyan victims of a 1986 raid on that country ordered by President Ronald Reagan.
That attack, aimed at Ghadafi, was ordered in retaliation for the bombing of the La Belle disco in Berlin that killed two American soldiers. Ghadafi's adopted daughter was killed in the American retaliatory raid. The destruction of Pan Am 103 was viewed by the United States as payback by the Libyan leader. As part of negotiations between the two countries, Ghadafi admitted responsibility for the act of his employee, Megrahi. But Megrahi continues to maintain his innocence, and Ghadafi has never said he ordered the plane blown from the sky. "We have conveniently forgotten Ghadafi said he was responsible," Monetti said, insisting Rice should have stayed away from the meeting with the Libyan leader. Ghadafi's son, Saif, last month told BBC that the American families were "greedy." He earlier said Libyans were "innocent" of the Pan Am 103 bombing but admitted responsibility to have sanctions lifted.
The humanitarian fund to compensate Libyans as well as Americans will not include U.S. taxpayer money -- but Rice declined to say who else besides Libyans will contribute to it. Monetti believes international oil companies, eager for full resumption of ties to the oil-rich country, will add money to it. "It's just about money and oil," Monetti said.
In regard to post 15 notice how everything is about oil and the fault of bush. they just don’t have a clue.
“In regard to post 15 notice how everything is about oil and the fault of bush. they just dont have a clue.”
I was trying to ignore that, given the grief these families have experienced, but you are right. There it is.
Nothing to say at all about what was done or not done regarding Libya, during the eight long years of the Clinton administration, just Bush and oil companies.