20 December 2018
On the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie Air Disaster, Holy Trinity RC Church, Lockerbie will be open tomorrow (Friday 21 December) from 10am to allow visitors to call in for quiet reflection, to light a memorial candle or to have a chat and a cup of tea. The day will end with the celebration of Holy Mass at 7pm led by Bishop William Nolan with Canon Pat Keegans the former Parish Priest as guest preacher together with Fr Jim Hayes the current Parish Priest.
Bishop of Galloway, Bishop William Nolan said;
“Although 30 years have passed since the tragic events of 21 December 1988, the memories of the community of Lockerbie have not faded or diminished. The church today as then offers solace and support to all those affected and will continue to be present in the community of Lockerbie, praying for and supporting the town and its people as well as the American victims and their families.”
Canon Keegans who was parish priest in Lockerbie in 1988, will speak movingly of the aftermath of the disaster in his homily and say of the 270 who died;
“You are not just a distant memory. You are not from the past. You are precious people who live on in our hearts, for that is where your names are truly engraved.”
He will add;
“Some say that you have received justice. I am not at all convinced. What I can promise is that we will not close the book on the story of your lives, for the last chapter is still to be written: Pan Am 103. The truth must be known. The whole truth.”
Canon Keegans will conclude his sermon by saying;
“30 years ago in the darkness we kept the lights on; the light of our love. As Christmas approaches again this year we will hear the beautiful words concerning Christ. “A light shines in the darkness, a light that darkness could not overpower.” (John 1:5) Our loved ones who died now experience the fullness of life and light with God.”
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EMBARGOED 7PM FRIDAY 21 DECEMBER 2018
The 30th Anniversary of Lockerbie
Mass in Holy Trinity R C Church, Lockerbie
Sermon by Canon Patrick Keegans
“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”. (Philippians 4:8)
These are holy and powerful words from Sacred Scripture.
Thank you for inviting me to be with you today for the 30th Anniversary of Lockerbie, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the mass murder of 270 innocent victims, men, women and children.
Whenever I visit Lockerbie I go to Sherwood Crescent, Tundergarth, Rosebank, Park Place and eventually to the Garden of Remembrance and the Memorial Stone at Dryfesdale Cemetery. I stand in silence in front of the stone. Sometimes I touch it. I read the names engraved there, the names of all 270 murder victims who were killed on the 21st December 1988.
The Stone: Is it just a list of names? A number? No. John Michael Gerard Ahern – his is the first name on the stone. The letter “A”. Mark James Zwynenburg – his is the last name on the stone. The letter “Z”. All the letters of the alphabet are contained on that stone. 270 precious individual lives from 21 different countries. I reach out and touch a name. There you are, Joanne Flannigan from Sherwood Crescent. You are only 10. I remember you and I remember your friend Lyndsey Sommerville, who is 10, and her brother, Paul, who is 13. And you, Joanne, and Paul and Lyndsey are delivering Christmas cards. You ring my doorbell. You hand me a card. You smile and say, “Have a nice Christmas” and all three of you die. But, as with all who died on that evening, whose names are engraved along with yours, you are not just a list. You are not just a distant memory. You are not from the past. You are precious people who live on in our hearts, for that is where your names are truly engraved. What would you say to your families at this time? You would say: “Do not worry about us, we are alright. We are at peace; and we would want you to know that for those of us who have died, life is changed, not ended; we have gained an everlasting dwelling place with God. We’re doing just fine.” And what else would you say to your families? You would say “We are proud of you, Oh, so proud of you.”
“For the way you have handled the immensity of grief and sorrow and loss – we are proud of you, Oh, so proud of you.”
“For the way you have put your lives back together – we are proud of you, Oh, so proud of you.”
“For developing the ability to rise from the depths, for the ways you help each other”;
“For deciding to live - we are proud of you, Oh, so proud of you.”
“For the ways you help others in similar circumstances – we are proud of you, Oh, so proud of you.”
“For all the joy, happiness, laughter and love in your lives – we are proud of you, Oh, so proud of you.”
“For all the new children in your lives – we are proud of you, Oh, so proud of you.”
Yes, that is what you would say; and you would tell all of us to remember with gratitude the immensity of love that the people of Lockerbie showed to the world.
You would tell us to keep in mind all who helped in the long, slow process to recovery, all whose own lives were affected by the darkness of those days, those who, with dedication and self-sacrifice, helped in so many ways; the police, the army, doctors and nurses, psychologists and counsellors, the clergy, social services and voluntary services, the search and rescue, the fire fighters, builders and architects - a multitude beyond counting. “Don’t forget what they did,” you would tell us; “remember them with gratitude.” And we do, And you would tell us: “Treasure each day the gift of life.”
What would I say to those who died? What would you say? I would tell them: You are so loved. You are missed. I imagine you, Joanne Flannigan, now 40, in the prime of your life; still friends with Lyndsey and Paul Summerville; perhaps married with children; I would say to all those who died : your families and friends have a big void and emptiness in their lives because you are not here; they have a lasting sorrow and a deep sense of loss. That’s not to say that they go around miserable all the time; you wouldn’t want that. You would want them to live their lives fully and even joyfully. And they do. After you died they put an immense effort into re-structuring, or even re-starting, their lives; for a long, long time they lived in a thick darkness. For all the efforts they made to come out of that darkness you should be proud of them, Oh, so proud of them. They are doing fine, but no matter what they are doing there is a constant undertone, an inner voice of regret which says “you are not here.” I hope that, like me, they believe that you are with the angels and saints and that one day they shall see you again.
You would not want us to seek revenge, to have others suffer the same fate as Lockerbie, but you would want justice. Some say that you have received justice. I am not at all convinced. What I can promise is that we will not close the book on the story of your lives, for the last chapter is still to be written: Pan Am 103. The truth must be known. The whole truth.
And as I speak to you here in Holy Trinity Church this evening, I can reflect that, having experienced here in Lockerbie, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and seeing such horror and devastation, we did not allow our lives to be poisoned by fear nor by a desire for revenge. All that we looked for was healing, recovery and justice. Since that day of December 21st, 1988, we did not allow fear to shut down our lives. From that day onwards, over the past 30 years, we have resisted and rejected any attempts by various governments to induce fear or hatred of others into our lives. The promotion of fear as a way of life, as a means of controlling us, leads us down dangerous, deadly and destructive roads. The promotion of fear leads to paralysis, to the abnegation of personal responsibility. It leads to the erosion of liberty. It breeds mistrust and breaks down dialogue. It tips us over into over-reaction, often violent and excessive in nature. It leads to the mistreatment of those perceived as threats, to paranoia and to a release of a de-humanizing virus in the national psyche.
We do not choose fear. We choose Christ. The One who leads us out of darkness into light. The one who assures us that He is always with us, in joyful days, in dark days. The One who says, ‘I have come that you may have life.’ (John 10:10) By choosing Christ we can honour those who have died by living in the stream of goodness. An old Rabbi told his students : you know that a new day has begun, not when you start to see the trees or view the mountains; no - a new day dawns, light comes into your day and into your life when you can look at each person in your life and see that person as your brother or your sister. We experienced being there for each other in the darkness. We now live in the light. We must continue to see ourselves as brothers and sisters, children of the one God and, irrespective of politics or religion, colour or beliefs; irrespective of differing views, to always reach out to one another seeking harmony and understanding; and in doing so we enter the stream of goodness. With the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 those who were in the stream of evil brought us suffering, distress, loss, changes to our lives that cannot be un-done, affecting immediate families and a multitude of others. But we do not allow ourselves to be defeated by evil. 270 innocent victims died, but we do not make ourselves victims by stepping into the dark stream of evil through bitterness or hate. Instead, to honour our loved ones, we step into the stream of goodness. And, in that stream of goodness, we seek to create and promote those conditions in which all people can live with dignity. We seek to remove the injustices and wrong thinking that lead to tensions, atrocities, poverty, violence and acts of terror. We oppose injustice in all its shapes and disguises and we seek in our own lives a way to live that will bring a blessing to the people we meet on the journey we make together through life. In the Scriptures we read “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” (Romans 12:21)
30 years ago, in the darkness we kept the lights on; the light of our love. As Christmas approaches again, this year we will hear the beautiful words concerning Christ. “A light shines in the darkness, a light that darkness could not overpower.” (John 1:5) Our loved ones who died now experience the fullness of life and light with God.
What would they say to us today? They would look at us and say:
“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8) and act upon them.
God bless you.
God bless Lockerbie.