Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for that warm welcome. It is my honor to join you today, and a privilege to return to this memorial. I want to thank President Kara Weipz and the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 organization for inviting me back this year – and for all the work you do year-round to lift up the legacies of the 270 lives we lost – far too suddenly and far too soon.
The senseless act of terror that stunned the world that December evening 33 years ago was an assault on our shared humanity, designed to sow fear. It sought to disturb our sense of place in the world. But for those of you here today, it was never an abstraction; it was personal. There was the tragedy that unfolded on the news, and then there was the tragedy that unfolded in your homes – that shapes your lives today.
When I have had the honor of attending this commemoration in years past, I have always been so inspired to see that, amidst the heavy toll taken by one senseless act, you have drawn on your collective grief and shared humanity to fuel the creation of a new community – this community – determined to carry forward the stories of those taken from us that day. They were your children, your spouses, your parents, your colleagues and your friends. They were coming home from study abroad, returning from business trips, traveling home for Christmas and going about life in Lockerbie. Their stories were far from finished. That is why this community’s commitment to remembering and telling their stories is so important – because you start not with the ending, but with everything that came before.
As you heard FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate describe, over the last 33 years, the FBI and the Department of Justice have worked, hand in hand with our Scottish partners, to investigate every aspect of the Pan Am case to ensure that those responsible for this act of evil are held accountable. The commitment from our Scottish partners has proven invaluable, as has the dedication of countless FBI agents and professionals as well as prosecutors in the National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Because of their efforts, one year ago today, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against a third conspirator. Those charges are one more step toward justice for those we lost and they reflect the resolve of the women and men of the Department of Justice – no matter how long it takes – to see those responsible brought to justice in the United States.
The same determination that has driven the prosecutors and agents to deliver justice for what happened over Lockerbie was also present on that plane 33 years ago. In a member of our own Justice Department family. Michael Bernstein was a leader in the Criminal Division’s Office of Special Investigations – our nation’s Nazi Hunters – he was flying home on Flight 103 after successfully negotiating with the Austrian government to accept the return of several people involved in Nazi persecution during World War II.
Michael’s dedication to the cause of justice – even, or perhaps especially, seeking justice for the wrongs of decades past – is emblematic of so many of the men and women I work with every day. And it is why you can count on the Justice Department to keep up our efforts, no matter how long it takes. I know that phrase – no matter how long it takes – though meant as comfort, is also frustrating. Because one day more is too long.
That is why I am in awe of the grace and strength – and resilience – demonstrated here today and every year – by this community. You have turned grief and loss into action – to improve airline security, to inspire changes in how our government works with victims of terrorism and their families; to show what it means to persevere. Because of you, we will not stop until all those responsible are held accountable. Because of you, the legacies of your loved ones are carried forward. Because of you, we pay tribute today, we honor the legacies of your loved ones and – because of you, their stories live on.