Friday, 21 August 2009

I remember Lockerbie

I remember Lockerbie very well. In December 1988 I was working my way through college working as a van driver, and said village was on my regular run from the UK Midlands up to Edinburgh, twice a month. An early start to arrive for 8am at a wholesalers on the Kirkcaldy Road. The job just about paid my tuition, course fees and rent with the odd few pennies over for a beer or two at a weeks end.

The day before the terrorist-bombed 747 fell to earth and obliterated several houses in that village I'd driven past (Once northbound, once southbound) with barely a glance. All Lockerbie meant to me was a mile marker on the A74(M). The following evening I watched blurred BBC footage of the whole village ablaze, and burning debris on the road. Repeated images like the above of the eggshell fragile nose section lying crushed, misshapen and embedded in Scottish soil. All that I could think at the time was; There by the grace of God go we all.

Two weeks later I drove past on my regular run up to Edinburgh and saw a fire stripped low hillock where houses had overlooked the highway. A long half oval section trench in the blasted earth pointing obliquely towards the road, some three or four metres deep. On the hard shoulder there were a couple of gawkers, but apart from that the road was pretty well deserted. Just as if all the regular traffic was in mourning for the people whose lives were involuntarily ripped away; both at thirty one thousand feet, and for those who died in the fires on the ground. For my part I could not imagine why that aircraft? Why those people?

Even now I have an awful mental image of people tumbling and screaming in free fall, shards of flaming aircraft falling with them. Freezing air stripped from their lungs at high altitude. Did they burn? Was the pain too awful? Sometimes my imagination is a little too gruesome. I do remember remember praying quietly to the little bit of God I know that the passengers and crew had not suffered.

Then I ask myself for what did these people die? Were they active combatants? No. In an active war zone? No. A 'revenge' attack for an Iranian airliner that was shot down when it wouldn't change course? Maybe. All I know is that every time innocent people die in terrorist related incidents, it is, to use a latin phrase culled from the Domesday Book, wasta est(It is a waste). A waste of resource, a waste of lives, a pointless destruction of tomorrows which will only generate revenge. What did it achieve? Did anything positive arise from it? No. Just like 9/11, a capricious, pointless, and above all, ugly gesture at the wrong target.

Now the man convicted of the bombing has been set free, arriving to a heroes welcome in Libya. He will die shortly. Some say he was not guilty, a Judas goat to placate outraged American public opinion. I do not know. I do not think we will ever know for certain.

When it comes to my recollection of Lockerbie, the only thing I know for certain is that innocents died for nothing. It achieved nothing positive. It brought no victims back from the dead. It brought no peace. No justice. It didn't help any displaced Palestinians. It did not serve God. Perhaps that is the true punishment for the perpetrators is knowing that the murders they committed that night served no purpose at all, and thus render the murderers without use or purpose. Perhaps understanding that pointlessness is the Hell they so richly deserve.

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