Pan Am families to meet in N.J.
On Sept. 12, the United Nations lifted sanctions against Libya after the country admitted responsibility for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 in 1989 and agreed to pay victims’ families up to $10 million each. Tomorrow, many of those families will meet to figure out how much of that money they’ll actually get and to discuss their next collective step in a 15-year-old healing process.
The Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 Inc., the largest organization of victims’ family members, will convene in Newark, N.J., for a general membership meeting where they plan to talk about the latest developments from Libya, the U.S. government and the international community. The bombing, which killed 259 people, including 35 Syracuse University students, remains fresh in the minds of victims’ families, who welcome the opportunity to speak about its continued effect on their lives.
‘It’s a good time for people to come together,’ said Kara Weipz, president of the organization. ‘There are a lot of logistical questions people have.’
The meeting will address families’ concerns about their settlement with Libya, from which they expect to receive $5 million, according to Bob Monetti, a former president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 and whose son Rick was one of the SU students killed on the flight.
‘The fact of the matter is that it’s a $5 million deal which is probably less money than we could have gotten if we went to court,’ Monetti said.
Families will receive at least $5 million each, not including legal fees, which vary greatly from lawyer to lawyer. Another $5 million could come if the United States lifts its own sanctions against Libya and removes the country from the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism, a possibility that may not materialize in the eight-month statute of limitations laid out in the settlement.
The meeting will begin with a moment of silence to honor the victims and will continue with a keynote speech from Bill Mayo, a Rutgers University professor who is developing an airline bomb detector. A presentation of ‘Dark Elegy’ sculptures by Suse Lowenstein, whose son Alexander was one of the SU students on the flight, will occupy the afternoon session, with various committee meetings and presentations scheduled throughout the day.
A major focus of the meeting will be the upcoming anniversary event to be held in Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 21, said Weipz. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the bombing and comes at a time when the legal chapter of Pan Am 103 dispute is coming to a close.
The money from the settlement may come to families as relief or as little consolation for the loss of a human life, but Monetti thinks it’s a little of both.
‘They’ll take their $5 million because it’s been 15 years,’ Monetti said. ‘Not everyone’s health is the greatest, and not everyone’s job is the greatest, so they’ll take it and go on to something else.’
And after tomorrow’s meeting, families hope to have a better grip on what lies ahead.
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