The Lockerbie Plane Bombing — Letter Sent to Teacher in 1988
By Meghan Wong (SMHS ‘21)
In my summer school US History class, I learned about something called the Flight 103 Bombing. In this regard I specifically learned that:
- Flight 103 refers to a Pan American (Boeing-made 747) that on December 21, 1988 and while flying over Lockerbie, Scotland en route from London to New York was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew.
- Large sections of the aircraft crashed onto residential areas of Lockerbie, killing 11 people on the ground.
- With a total of 270 people killed, it is the deadliest terror attack in the history of the United Kingdom.
- More U.S. civilians died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, than in any other terrorist attack except 9/11.
- Flight 103 Bombing is also sometimes referred to as the Lockerbie Bombing.
After having learned the above, my teacher encouraged me to write a 750–1000 word Historical Fiction Letter, with this letter to be written from the perspective of an American between the age of 18–25 and living in London at the time of the bombing. He also encourged me to address my letter to a Mr. Joe Titan, a fictional US History teacher at the students’ school.
In the Historical Fiction Letter appearing below, I assume that, at the time of the bombing, I was a 22 year old medical research intern at MRC London Institute.
I also assume that I was writing my letter from a London cafe just down the street from my flat a day and a half after the bombing
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Dear Mr. Titan:
This is Meghan Wong. If you don’t remember, I was a student in your 1982 US History class and even though I haven’t talked to you since graduating in 1983, the harrowing news of events occurring not far from me just about twenty-four hours ago have led me to reach out to you.
I’m writing from the Kennington Lane Café in the heart of London on December 22, 1988 — exactly one day after the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 a mere 300 miles from the cafe. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it.
I’ve been living here in London for the past two years, taking part in a medical internship at the MRC London Institute of Research. My days are spent researching something called “membrane traffic” as part of the Biochemistry, Quantitative Biology, Biophysics and Structural Biology (BQBS) Unit.
While it may seem boring, this topic interests me a lot, and improved my detail-oriented skills; I completed an effective work day. My shift ended at 11:00 pm yesterday, and I did not check the news but instead flopped immediately on my bed utterly exhausted but also pleased at the work I had finished.
With my shift starting the next day at 11:00 am, I woke up the next day at 7:30 out of habit, quickly changed into a blazer and corduroy pants and biked over to a nearby cafe in which my friend asked to meet at. I arrived at the cafe, ordered a lox bagel and coffee, picked a table near the window, settled down, and looked out the window at the misty grey skies amiably.
This mood was rapidly spoilt when one of my colleagues that I was meeting for breakfast came running into the room, tears streaming down her cheeks and a newspaper clutched in one hand. Immediately concerned, I stood up, but she shoved the papers at my face, sank into the seat across from me, and buried her head in her hands, profusely crying.
I glanced at the head title of the London World Newspaper and gasped. I then skimmed the article, confusion and fear written all over my face. After reading the brief reports of the casualties, the suspected cause, and the quoted assurances of the officials regarding the disaster, I looked up at my friend, horrified and afraid for my own life. Having living so close to the site of tragedy, if something such as this could kill just under 300 people, what was to say that I was not next?
My friend, tears dropping on her white work shirt, wailed to me that her cousin had been on that flight home after visiting her just before winter break. Shocked, I pityingly tried to comfort her.
This event really affected me as I felt immense compassion toward all the families of the victims. The closeness of this attack in relation to me shook me to the core, and while there was not much information let out, my friend had heard enough.
Through our shift from 9:00 to 12:00, I began to think about all the events leading up to the disaster. Was there a plane malfunction? Was it a crazy person endangering the lives of everyone? Was it a large scale terrorist attack? The boxy television set stationed in out lab room answered some of our questions regarding the explosion.
I wanted to know who were the people that caused the loss of so many lives. But it was impossible to know now, all I could do was hope and pray for the people that were related to the victims of the crash.
I can now imagine all the strewn belongings of peoples all over the grassy fields, people’s bodies lying around, and among them my friend’s friend, unknowing of the many people searching for him. I cannot help but think this event will surely go down in history as an extreme terrorist attack.
I hope that you would feel the same empathy for these people, and I hope you would take note of the events going on in the following days, because this act is sure to infamously go down in history.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Pan Am Flight 103.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Dec. 2018.
CBS News. “Pan Am 103 Bombing: A Look Back.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 13 Dec. 2018.
CNN. “A Look Back at Lockerbie Plane Bombing.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 May 2012
“Pan Am Flight 103 Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 Aug. 2018.
“Remembering Pan Am Flight 103.” FBI, FBI, 14 Dec. 2018.
“UPI Almanac for Wednesday, Dec. 21, 1988.” UPI, UPI, 21 Dec. 2016.
ACADEMIC HONESTY STATEMENT
I declare that this work is my own work and that I have correctly acknowledged the work of others. This work is in accordance with SMHS Academic Honesty Policy and its guidance on good academic conduct and how to avoid plagiarism and other assessment irregularities.
- Meghan Wong