We have come together today to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing
of Pan Am Flight 103.
It is perhaps of some significance that this terrorist act took place
on December 21st—the longest night of the year. For many, the Winter
Solstice marks a time of transition—of darkness versus light, of
the depths of winter against the promise of the coming spring.
For you, this day is indeed the darkest of days. You lost children who
would now be adults. You lost husbands and wives, mothers and fathers,
siblings and loved ones. You lost all of the potential that life holds,
young or old.
There are those who say that time heals all wounds. But you know that
not to be true. At its best, time may dull the deepest wounds; it cannot
make them disappear.
But time also provides a way forward. Time provides the way to remember
those you have lost in the best way—through a Little League baseball
field built in the memory of a lost husband, a field where children now
laugh and play.
Through town parks and trees planted in sacred spots, where others can
now seek solace. Through scholarships for students who will learn to see
the world through new eyes, and through this cairn, constructed stone by
I will never forget a visit I made to Lockerbie. I saw the small wooden
warehouse in which were stored the various effects of your loved ones:
a white sneaker, a Syracuse sweatshirt, Christmas presents, and photographs.
These ordinary items brought home to me—and came to symbolize for
me—your pain and your loss…pain and loss that have not diminished,
even after so many years.
I understand how difficult it has been for all of you to withstand the
ongoing appeals in this case and the media reports from around the world.
Let me say that I was confident then, and I remain confident to this
day, that those we convicted were responsible for this terrorist act. And
while that may provide some comfort to you, it is not enough.
Fighting terrorism remains the Bureau’s top priority. For those
of us in the FBI, our work is not merely finding and prosecuting those
who would do us harm. It is making sure that other families will not suffer
as you have. To ensure they will never have to endure such long days of
Yet out of the darkness of this day comes a ray of light. The light of
unity, of friendship, and of comfort from those who once were strangers
and who are now bonded together by a terrible moment in time.
The light of shared memories that bring smiles instead of sadness. And
the light of hope for better days to come.
Robert Frost once wrote of stopping by the woods on the darkest evening
of the year. The driver stops to watch the woods fill up with snow. He
lingers so long in the stillness that his horse shakes his harness bells,
to ask if there is some mistake.
With Frost’s words, we are drawn into the silence and tranquility
of the woods—lovely, dark and deep. Yet there is always the slightest
pull of having to go on, to move forward.
The driver knows that he has promises to keep, and miles to travel before
he sleeps. He is well acquainted with the coming night.
You, too, are well acquainted with the night. You may have felt compelled
to remain in the darkness. Yet you have chosen to continue down the road.
You, too, have promises to keep, and miles to go before you sleep...as
Many of you have visited Lockerbie in the past 20 years. You may be familiar
with the Lockerbie Town Crest, which has on it just one word…and
that is “Forward.”
It is the Lockerbie town motto. And it is a choice. For 20 years, you
have moved forward.
It may have been easier, perhaps, to turn from this tragedy and to find
peace in a more private way. Yet through your commitment and your perseverance,
you have had significant success in holding the Pan Am Corporation and
the government of Libya accountable.
You have made improvements to aviation security, as Congressman Oberstar
said a moment ago.
You have kept this act of terrorism in the public eye. You have continued
to push government officials to recognize the danger of terrorism, here
at home and abroad.
You have changed the way victims of terrorism and their loved ones are
treated by the government and by responsible officials. And you have done
all of this in the face of your devastating losses.
No one would seek to be the ground-breaker in any of these areas, but
you moved forward nonetheless.
Thirteen years ago, at the dedication ceremony for this memorial, President
Clinton said, “Let us take this cairn as the sign of our bond with
the victims of Pan Am 103, to remember the light they brought into so many
lives, to work to bring justice down on those who committed the murders,
to keep our own people safe, to rid the world of terrorism, and never to
forget until this job is done.”
Today, as we stand here together on this, the darkest of days, we renew
We remember the light these individuals brought to each of you here today.
We renew our efforts to bring justice down on those who seek to harm
We renew our efforts to keep our people safe, and to rid the world of
We will continue to move forward. But we will never forget.
I am honored to have been here today. God bless you, your families, and
the loved ones you have lost.
# # #
Executive Speeches | Press