On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, originating from Frankfurt, Germany, departed from Heathrow Airport in London, bound for New York City. Forty minutes into the flight, the plane exploded over the sky, above Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew aboard were killed, as well as 11 Scots on the ground, who were struck by falling debris.
The passengers and crew on Flight 103 hailed from 21 different countries and included 189 Americans, 15 of whom were active-duty military and 10 were veterans.
The cairn, a traditional Scottish monument honoring the dead, was given to the United States by Scotland as a gift. Its 270 sandstone blocks honor each of the 270 victims. Stones were sourced from Corsehill Quarry in Annan, Scotland. (Corsehill is the same quarry that provided the blocks used to build the base of the Statue Of Liberty.)
A bronze plaque on the side of the cairn reads, “In remembrance of the two hundred seventy people killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan American Airways Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland 21 December 1988. Presented by the Lockerbie Air Disaster Trust to the United States Of America.”
The base of the Cairn is engraved with the following words: “On 21 December 1988, a terrorist bomb destroyed Pan American Airlines Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all on board and 11 on the ground. The 270 Scottish stones which compose this memorial cairn commemorate those who lost their lives in this attack against America.”
Five years after the date of the attack, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pan Am Flight 103 Memorial was held at Arlington National Cemetery. President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote speech. It took nearly three years after the bombing for a joint effort between the FBI, CIA, and numerous international police organizations to trace responsibility for the bombing to a pair of Libyan intelligence operatives, and it wasn’t until January 2001 that one of the men, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi, was found guilty of the crime.
The Lockerbie bombing remains one of the deadliest commercial airline attacks and is the deadliest terrorist attack ever in Scotland.
Know Before You Go
Arlington National Cemetery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.