Lockerbie families mark crash anniversary - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Lockerbie families remember victims on crash anniversary

(Source: Victims of Pam Am Flight 103) (Source: Victims of Pam Am Flight 103)

(RNN) - The 24th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing on Friday is also the first anniversary the only man ever convicted of the crime won't see.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence operative, died in May at his home in Tripoli at the age of 60.

Convicted of blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people just days before Christmas, al-Megrahi was released by Scotland in 2009 on compassionate grounds. 

The release came after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and reportedly given three months to live.

He only served eight years of a 27-year minimum sentence, prompting worldwide outrage, especially when his prognosis of three months to live stretched to nearly three years before he finally died.

As for al-Megrahi, it's a name many of the family members of victims choose not to focus on each Dec. 21 anniversary.

At the official annual Lockerbie memorial service, healing and remembrance is the order of the day. And the names of the victims - not al Megrahi's - are the focus of thoughts and tribute.

"It's really to memorialize the people who died, so we try to keep out of politics and foreign affairs," said Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103.

"For a long while we never even mentioned Megrahi's name. He's a little worm and we didn't want to mention his name. We called him the bomber, the murderer."

For the 24th anniversary, a handful of families will gather, like they do faithfully every year, at the Lockerbie memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to read the names of the deceased.

The memorial, a cairn made of 270 stones - one for each passenger, crew member or victim killed on the ground - is constructed of stones all cut in Scotland.

Memorial organizers ensure that families get to read the name of their friend or family member who died.

As families look back, they also make sure the legacy of their loved one goes forward.

Syracuse University established a scholarship in honor of the 35 students who died on the flight, returning from a semester studying abroad.

Each year, 35 Remembrance Scholars from the school represent each of the 35 students at the memorial.

"They choose which one they want to represent. They pick someone they can relate to," Duggan said.

"They talk to the parents. They look at letters written home. It's amazing because … they're all born after this happened. It's wonderful that they're keeping this alive."

Unable to rewrite history, families have instead chosen to remember it … and spend their lives making sure others don't forget the people they hold so dear.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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