Students honor Pan Am victims with Quad vigil
A candlelight vigil was held Thursday night on the steps of Hendricks Chapel in honor of the 35 students who lost their lives in the Pan Am Flight 103 terrorist attack 19 years ago.
Thirty-five Remembrance Scholars represented the lives lost on Dec. 21, 1988, when a plane carrying 35 Syracuse University students was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Patricia Burak, director of the Slutzker Center for International Services, was the professor of Jason Coker, one of the students killed in the attack. She spoke at the vigil about a Christmas card she received before his return home.
‘He told me he loved his experience from abroad,’ Burak said.
Unfortunately, she never had the chance to thank him for the card.
‘History is kept alive through the act of telling stories of people, places and events,’ Burak said.
Burak said she believes the Remembrance Scholars work is keeping the memories of the SU victims alive. ‘They ensure their mortality by the stories they researched and are telling,’ Burak said.
The 35 Remembrance Scholars were in charge of Remembrance Week at SU and had the opportunity to individually research one of the 35 students who died in 1988. Senior Scholar Dana Roberts said she chose to remember Shannon Davis because she felt a connection to her after searching through the archives.
‘She reminded me a lot of myself,’ Roberts said. ‘It is an honor to represent and carry on her legacy. It helped me appreciate experiences and to take more risks. Those 35 students were risk takers.’
After reading a compilation of letters from the Davis family, Roberts realized that the family wanted people to remember Davis for who she was, not for the tragedy that ended her life.
Thomas Wolfe, dean of Hendricks Chapel, spoke at the foot of the chapel steps and led the vigil in prayer.
‘Nearly 19 years ago, news came to our campus that Flight 103 had been bombed in the sky over Scotland,’ Wolfe said. ‘Soon after, our greatest fears about our students came true.’
When the campus first received the news, people gathered in Hendricks to comfort each other and sit in silence, Wolfe said. The congregation met again Thursday in a silent remembrance and held a candlelight ceremony.
‘We do this because we choose never to forget them,’ he said. ‘We share in acts of remembrance because it is our way to celebrate their vitality. They each lived a quality of wholeness by going out into the world.’
The SU students were returning home for the holidays after a semester of studying abroad in London before terrorists intervened.
The way the students’ lives ended was tragic, but the circumstance of their death has served to enlighten the world about how religious tensions and ethnic differences can lead to misunderstanding and violence, Wolfe said.
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