ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA -- Although a quarter century has passed since the world was shaken – and so many lives were devastated – by a heinous and cowardly act of terror, no amount of distance or time can ease the pain, or erase the loss, that was inflicted on that day. Even now, it remains difficult to comprehend the magnitude of such a senseless crime – which claimed the lives of 259 innocent men, women, and children in the skies above Scotland, along with the lives of 11 residents of the peaceful town of Lockerbie.
Some of the victims were traveling to the United States for the very first time. Some were enjoying quiet evenings with their families. Some were on their way to visit friends and relatives. Some were simply trying to come home. And although their respective journeys, and their individual lives, were cut tragically short – all continue to be dearly loved, and deeply missed, by everyone who knew them – and especially by those who come together on this patch of hallowed ground each year to pay tribute to the lives that were stolen – and to heal those that were irreparably changed.
We will always remember the heartache, the devastation, and the pain that was etched into our collective memory on the 21st of December, 1988. But we also recall, as we gather each year, the tremendous generosity of the Scottish people – and particularly the people of Lockerbie – who, despite their own losses, opened their homes to the families of victims who streamed into that small town from around the world in the days after the bombing. In the midst of their anguish, these generous men and women gave what comfort they could offer, and shared what solace they could provide.
We recall the determination that animated families and victim advocates who joined together to seek answers and understanding. Some of these passionate individuals, including many of the current and former FBI agents, Justice Department prosecutors, and other officials who are with us today, have selflessly defined the quest for justice in the aftermath of this crime as their life’s work.
But more than anything – as we assemble in this place of remembrance, year after year – we recall the moments of unity, and of love, that have arisen from the grief we share. We remember the occasions that have brought this community together not only in mourning, but in search of healing and hope – and in celebration of the extraordinary lives that bind us together.
We keep calling for change, and fighting for justice, on behalf of those no longer with us. We rededicate ourselves – and our nation – to the qualities that defined the men and women we lost. And we continue to be drawn together every year on this date: faces old and new, friends long departed and members of fresh generations – including some who bear the names of absent loved ones – to lend our voices to this solemn memorial. To hear stories and exchange joyous memories. And to be part of the community that – a quarter century after that terrible day – is still striving to build, from an act of unspeakable evil, a lasting legacy of compassion, of fellowship, and of love.
Today, this legacy is all around us – and it is very much alive. It lives in the resolve that brings us together and pushes us forward each day. It persists in our unfinished but ongoing work to see that justice is done, and to ensure that those who commit acts of terror are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. And it endures in our determination to secure a brighter future for ourselves and our fellow citizens – a future that is free from the hatred, and the senseless destruction, that has touched your lives and far too many others.
May our continuing efforts serve as a fitting monument to those who were taken from us 25 years ago. May we never tire in our work to forge a society, and a world, that are worthy of the empathy and grace that unites this remarkable group. And may God bless the memories of those we’ve lost; the cause of justice we are humbled to serve; and the great nation that will forever hold the victims of Pan Am 103, and each of their loving families, in our hearts.