Prayers and a few tears as Borders town remembers

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The Independent Online

There were prayers and a few tears in Lockerbie as people remembered their own experiences of 13 years ago when Pan Am flight 103 crashed on the town killing 259 passengers and crew, as well as 11 people on the ground.

It is a long time since the Borders town suffered the agony the New York district of Queens is experiencing today but the memories are just as vivid and the feelings of compassion for those having to endure similar horrors are heartfelt. "What has happened to those people in that residential suburb is very much what happened to us, whether it is a terrorist attack or not," said Marjorie McQueen, a town councillor.

Mrs McQueen and her doctor husband, Kenneth, lived through the tragedy and its aftermath. And they still still live within 200 yards of Sherwood Crescent, the street that was almost wiped out by the crash. "As soon as you see or hear anything like what happened in Queens you are inevitably drawn back to 1988. It is particularly poignant seeing the streets on fire and the empty shells of the burnt-out buildings which are very reminiscent of what we endured at Lockerbie.

"We have moved on as a community. The 'normal' people of Lockerbie just want to put it behind them; people are tired of having to deal with the media attention which happens every time something like this happens to bring it all back.

"Our feelings are with the people of Queens, who will undoubtedly feel shock at what has happened. Many of them will, within the next few hours or days, experience a strong feeling guilt as to why they survived and others didn't.

"Obviously when it was known that it wasn't an accident, that someone had planned it, there was a huge feeling of anger in the town.

"The community of Queens will undoubtedly bind together to cope with this. But on top of their own grief and the media attention they will also have to handle the bereaved relatives from the victims on the plane. We know the name of Lockerbie will always be synonymous now with terror and tragedy but, as the people of Queens will discover, it is possible to move on but it takes time."

George Stobbs, a retired policeman, was the senior inspector for Lockerbie and the surrounding area at the time. "It is something you never forget or would wish for anyone else to have to experience," he said. "I remember the smell of aviation fuel, hedges, trees and streets on fire, having to wade through piles of debris and human remains to reach the houses in Sherwood Crescent where the engine came down."