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30th Anniversary Remembrance of the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie Bombing

Friday, December 21, 2018

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
30th Anniversary Remembrance of the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie Bombing
At the Pan Am Flight 103 Memorial Cairn
Arlington National Cemetery
Friday, December 21, 2018

Thank you, Kathy [Tedeschi], for inviting me to participate in the 30th anniversary remembrance of the Pan Am Flight 103 terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. 

It is an honor to be here with you-- as you remember your husband William Alan Daniels of Belle Meade, New Jersey-- as well as all the families who lost loved ones on that terrible day. 

This remembrance has special resonance for me, because I was there.

Thirty years ago, as Deputy U.S. Secretary of Transportation, I was the first high- level U.S. government official to visit Lockerbie, Scotland and survey the unfolding tragedy that the world came to know as the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie bombing.

If I close my eyes, I can still see the bucolic countryside, and feel the shock and sadness of the Lockerbie villagers and recovery workers.

I met with local officials, and went to the hangar where the wreckage was being painstakingly assembled.

I will never forget the thoughtfulness and care of the Scottish search and recovery workers.

There was a large bulletin board in the control room in the hangar, where they displayed every ID found from the flight.

The workers told me this served as a constant reminder that they were dealing with real people, not 270 unknown faces or numbers.

In the large, cavernous hangar, they set aside special memorial boxes—each bearing the name of a person who perished—so that his or her belongings could be returned to their family. They deliberately chose to counter this act of faceless terror with an affirmation of the value of each individual person who perished. 

I also visited the places where future memorials would be erected.

I came away with a profound sense of reverence for the ability of the human spirit to transcend inconceivable tragedy.

The Pan Am 103 bombing was a wake-up call for commercial aviation.  It was the beginning of the end of our innocence.  And it ushered in a new era of aviation vigilance and security, thanks largely to the work you have done.

Those who perished aboard Pan Am Flight 103-- and on the ground in Lockerbie-- will never be forgotten.

Working on their behalf, you have ensured that countless new measures have been put in place to make the skies safer from terrorists.

You created a new resolve in our country, and around the world, to fight terrorism so that other families never have to face the terrible losses you have suffered.

Our country owes you a great debt of gratitude for everything you have done.

So on this special day, our country joins you in prayerful remembrance for those who perished…in thanksgiving for the faith and resolve of their loved ones…and for all the lives that have been saved because of your advocacy for greater security in the skies.

May God bless you.  May God bless your families.  And may God grant grace, eternal rest and peace to those we remember today.

Thank you.