Week of events honor 1988 Pan Am 103 tragedy
Kara Weipz will lay a rose on the Wall of Remembrance next Friday.
She will stand in front of the Hall of Languages as a former Syracuse University student, as the president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 group, as a wife and a mother, as a daughter, as a sister.
She will lay the rose for her brother Rick Monetti, an SU journalism and political science major who lost his life on Pan Am Flight 103 two decades ago this December. He was 20 years old.
‘This has been my life,’ said Weipz, who was 15 when the flight exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. ‘I have lived through it. I have grown up with it.’
SU alumni, faculty and current students will join Weipz and family members of Pan Am 103 victims to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attack.
They will gather at several on-campus events during SU’s 12th annual Remembrance Week, which begins Sunday and ends Oct. 26. Together they will remember those lost in the tragedy that changed SU.
Monetti was one of 35 SU students who boarded Pan Am Flight 103 at London’s Heathrow Airport Dec. 21, 1988. The students had spent a semester studying in London and Florence through SU’s Division of International Programs Abroad, now known as SU Abroad. The flight was headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in a Libyan-sponsored terrorist bombing. All 259 of the flight’s crew and passengers were killed in the explosion. Eleven Lockerbie residents on the ground were also killed.
Brian Spendley, senior biomedical engineering major, is one of this year’s Remembrance Scholars. The scholars are a group of 35 SU seniors, each selected to represent an SU student killed in the attack.
‘We’re charged with the role of educating and reminding the SU community of the events of Pan Am 103,’ Spendley said. ‘I think this year, it’s exceedingly important because it’s the 20th anniversary. It’s important to educate each other and remember the lives that were lost and honor those people and their families.’
The scholars have met weekly since the start of the school year to plan the events of the week, including a performance and the rose laying ceremony.
‘It’s a huge honor,’ Spendley said. ‘It really means a lot to me that I was selected as one of the people to present these events. It’s not just a scholarship and award, there’s a lot more to it. I take a lot of pride in it.’
Peter Lowenstein, father of Pan Am 103 victim Alexander Lowenstein, said he’s pleased with how SU honors the students it lost.
‘After 20 years, it is quite amazing that Syracuse has maintained this much involvement with Pan Am,’ Lowenstein said. ‘It’s just great.’
SU has kept the Remembrance Week tradition alive since 1996. The week has maintained two primary purposes over the years: it remembers those who lost their lives, and it serves to reeducate the community about the tragedy, said Judy O’Rourke, director of undergraduate studies and SU’s liaison to the victims’ families.
‘(SU) doesn’t ever want to forget,’ O’Rourke said. ‘But we also want everyone, especially our students, to think about how, in moving forward in their lives, they can have a positive impact on the world.’
Two of the main events are the annual rose-laying ceremony and the Remembrance Scholars Convocation, both taking place Friday Oct. 24.
‘They are always just a very, very special way to first remember at the rose laying, and then to look forward at the convocation,’ O’Rourke said. ‘Those two events kind of embody what Syracuse wants to do.’
For the 20th anniversary, SU has expanded Remembrance Week. Between 500 and 600 people are expected to attend at least one of the week’s events, about 100 more people than in previous years, O’Rourke said.
‘The campus is keeping the memory of the tragedy together and alive,’ said Jill Ennis, a 2003 Remembrance Scholar and current SU Abroad marketing coordinator. ‘SU is still a tight-knit community that continues to educate its students. No one looks at this as a negative event. Instead, it is so uplifting, so forward looking.’
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