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Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at Annual Pan Am 103 Memorial Service


Arlington, VA
United States

Thank you, Mary Kay [Stratis], for that kind introduction and for your many years of leadership and service on behalf of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103. The Department of Justice does not stand alone in this fight. And I want to acknowledge our stalwart partner, Lord Advocate [Frank] Mulholland of Scotland and his office for their unwavering dedication and steadfast partnership.  And I want to acknowledge just a few of my colleagues from the Department of Justice who are with us today: FBI Director James Comey; Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin; U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips of the District of Columbia; and U.S. Attorney Rick Hartunian of the Northern District of New York, who became one of the original members of the victims’ group that called for a presidential commission on airport security after losing his sister, Lynne, in this tragic attack.   I also want to recognize the many current and former FBI agents, federal prosecutors, victim witness personnel and other officials who have dedicated themselves to the Lockerbie investigation and who have made the pursuit of justice their life’s work.  Finally, I want to thank all of the families of the fallen, who keep the flame of remembrance burning in your hearts, those gathered here today and those who could not attend but reached out to us as well.  It is an honor to stand with all of you to remember those we lost and to rededicate ourselves to keeping their memory alive.

Twenty-seven years ago, the evening calm that had settled over the town of Lockerbie was shattered by an act of appalling violence.  Two hundred and seventy lives were lost that day – in the skies above Scotland and in the homes and streets below.  For those of us who remember that terrible day, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 represented a watershed moment in the evolution of global security.  It was not only an attack on our society – it was an assault on our common humanity.  And for the friends and family gathered here today, it was first and foremost a personal tragedy.  For you, the victims of the attack on Pan Am 103 were not faces on the nightly news or names in the daily paper.  They were parents and siblings.  They were spouses and children.  They were colleagues and friends.  You knew their stories, you were part of their stories: the newly engaged couple making a pre-wedding trip to New York; the United Nations diplomat who had dedicated his life to the cause of peace; the American serviceman traveling to his sister’s funeral; the family of four settling into a quiet evening at home; the pilots and flight attendants beginning another night’s work; the college students returning from a semester abroad, filled with new ideas and fresh ambitions and brimming with hope for the future.

The men, women and children of the Lockerbie disaster were dear to you – they were yours and you were theirs.  Their stories are interwoven with your own.  That’s why, although their lives were cut tragically short 27 years ago, their legacy shines as brightly now as it ever has – not just on this annual day of remembrance, but every day: in the abiding love you feel for them; in the stories and memories you pass along to newer generations; and in the examples of resilience and compassion that you set from those first terrible moments, when devastated men and women of Lockerbie opened their homes to grieving families and offered what comfort they could provide.  Confronted with an act of violence, you responded with an expression of humanity – and in doing so, you denied the perpetrators the perverse victory they sought.  In the years since, you have supported families that lost loved ones, offered solace to victims of other atrocities and responded to evil by tirelessly pursuing justice.

For almost three decades, the Department of Justice has been proud to stand beside you in that difficult work – and we will continue to stand beside you until justice is finally done.   Your loved ones will never be forgotten, by you or by us.  That is my pledge to you as the Attorney General of the United States.    We are committed to honoring their memories through the work we do; we are devoted to the mission we share; and we are determined to achieve that which we have sought for more than a quarter century.  As you know, there have been new developments in our investigation in just the last few months and we, along with our Scottish counterparts, will spare no effort to advance the case towards the conclusion that you have awaited for so long.

I know that no such commitment can ease your pain and no words or speech can return your loved ones to you.  But I also know that the deeds we do in their name can enliven our community and repair our world.  In the long shadow of such mindless destruction, it can be difficult to imagine a brighter future – but for 27 years, you – the friends and family of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 – have worked tirelessly to build that future.  You have joined together to create what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the beloved community” – a community governed by justice, liberated from hatred and undivided by differences of ideology or creed.  And in doing so, you have constructed a memorial more fitting than any cairn of stone , no matter how beautiful, or monument of marble, such as those that surround us here. You have created a memorial of spirit, a memorial of heart, a memorial of love which is the strongest weapon of all in the fight we face.    

On this solemn anniversary, let us rededicate ourselves to that memorial and recommit ourselves to that future.  We are here not only to remember, but also to continue: to continue seeking justice; to continue strengthening the bonds of fellowship between us; and to continue honoring those lost to violence by devoting ourselves to peace. 

May  the creator of us all strengthen and renew our commitment to that noble effort.  May He hold the souls of our loved ones in the palm of his hand.  And may He shelter each and every family who shares this unspeakable loss with His everlasting grace. 

Thank you for letting me share this day with you.  Thank you for keeping the flame of remembrance alive.  And thank you for continuing to inspire each and every one of us.  

Updated September 29, 2016