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Pall From Flight 103 Bombing Lingers at University

December 20, 1989

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Darkness comes early on Dec. 21, the winter solstice.

But the darkness that fell over Syracuse University last Dec. 21 when students learned 35 homeward-bound classmates had been killed by a terrorist bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 never completely lifted.

″It’s getting harder to think about it without it becoming overwhelming,″ said Ann Lareau, a senior who studied in London with several of the victims, including her best friend, 20-year-old Theo Cohen.

″This was the time of year we were together there. When we were starting to talk about the things we were going to do when we got back,″ said Lareau, who added in a hushed voice: ″I miss them.″

Donine Carrington, a junior, said not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of her friend, Frederick ″Sandy″ Phillips.

″You just don’t expect people to die at that age. At that age you’re looking forward to the future,″ she said. ″I guess in time the pain will diminish, but in my heart it won’t start until those who are responsible are brought to justice. They’re not buried with peace. Their story is not whole.″

Phillips, Cohen and 33 other students who spent the semester studying overseas under Syracuse’s Division of International Studies Abroad program were returning home when their Pan Am jumbo jetliner exploded in the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The bombing killed all 259 people aboard the jet and 11 residents of Lockerbie, who died when debris from the plane crashed into the town.

The bombing cast a pall over the Syracuse campus.

″It was oppressive here last spring but those feelings started to wane over the summer and earlier this semester,″ said Nan Jensen, the university’s religious counseling coordinator. ″But it’s never been forgotten and many students still are having trouble letting go.″

For some students, it was days before they could leave their rooms to go to class, she said. Others immersed themselves in campaigns for tighter airport security and for travellers’ right to know about terroristic threats as a way to cope with the murders.

Jensen said attendance at her weekly grief support sessions picked up as the anniversary drew nearer.

Kathleen Deters, who coordinates counseling services in the university’s dormitories, said residence hall counselors had not seen the same increase, but that it was more likely students simply did not need to see the therapists that work with her office.

″I’ve talked to students and I know they’re still dealing with feelings of loss, but I don’t think it’s so deep-seeded they need the kind of counseling we offer,″ she said.

″The bombing hasn’t been forgotten and I doubt that it ever will be. Every time this part of te season rolls around it will come to mind,″ Deters said. ″I think that the students organized a vigil tells us they still needed an outlet to express themselves and reflect on it.″

An interfaith vigil was held Dec. 13 in Hendricks Chapel, where hundreds of students converged a year ago after the news of the bombing. A procession of 35 students carrying candles in memory of the victims and a song composed especially for the victims by senior Marshall Whinney highlighted the service, which was the day before final exams started.

The university is building a memorial wall and has established scholarships in tribute to the slain students. Syracuse’s football coach, Dick MacPherson, made a goodwill trip to Lockerbie over the summer and the university’s two- time defending national champion lacrosse team is making a trip in January.

Twenty-five of the student victims attended Syracuse, while the remaining 10 were from other schools who traveled abroad as part of the university’s foreign studies program.

″They’ve never been very far from our minds, from my mind,″ said Geri Clark, a drama professor who had taught seven of the victims. ″I still get a number of students in my office every week who just want to talk about the bombing or the friends they’ve lost. There’s a real sense that our numbers have been diminished in a profound way.″

Many of her students have taken it upon themselves to contact the families of the victims they knew, Clark said.

″I guess they just don’t want them to feel lonely at this time of year,″ she said.

While grieving continues to be the most visible legacy, Hendricks Chapel Dean Richard L. Phillips has witnessed another effect from the bombing.

″There is always some good to be found in the worst of tragedies,″ he said. ″As a university as a whole, we have become a more sensitive people because of this tragedy. There is more reverence for the sanctity of life. People are more caring in their interpersonal relationships.″

Phillips said he speaks often to students about the bombing, but he always tries to focus on the need to reflect on the beauty of the lives lost.

″They were among the best and brightest and we must never forget that,″ he said, echoing the words delivered by Chancellor Melvin Eggers during a memorial service last January that drew 15,000 people.

Lareau, the senior who lost her best friend, said a recent visit to London, while difficult, helped revive good memories that had been blocked out the past year. But the effects of the bombing are mostly negative.

″It’s a big battle to make friends for me now,″ she said. ″I’m afraid to get close to people. I let them in and it seems they die.″