View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

21 December 1988

It is early evening when PanAm flight 103 takes off from London's Heathrow airport, bound for New York. Not an hour into the journey, a homemade bomb, built around a radio-cassette recorder, explodes in the hold of the aircraft. This blows a hole in the fuselage, and the shockwave of the explosion disrupts the integrity of the aircraft. At 37,000 feet up, the Boeing 747 disintegrates, and the wreckage rains down on the small town of Lockerbie. The cockpit lands in a field near the A74 (Carlisle to Glasgow) road, but a large segment of the aircraft crashes into a small housing estate on the outskirts of Lockerbie. Houses are destroyed or set on fire. All passengers and crew on flight 103 are killed, although some were thought to have been alive as fell to the ground. Eleven townspeople were killed as well. Later, the evening became increasingly unreal, as newscrews descended on Lockerbie, reporting events - with the townspeople watching the 9 o'clock news on television to learn what had happened to their small town.

It was later determined that a bomb had been placed on the aircraft by Libyan security agents, acting on behalf of Col Ghadaffi. More than a decade later, Libya yielded two security agents for trial under Scots law, but only agreed to do so if they were tried not on British soil. So, an impromptu court was set up at Camp Zeist in Holland. Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in jail. He was released in August 2009 on humanitarian grounds as he was terminally ill and only had 3 months to live. Well, it's 16 months later and he's still alive. Not everybody was happy with that decision, as he had treated his victims with inhumanity.

This entry is dedicated to the memory of the 270 victims of Lockerbie
The BBC has a separate webpage "On this day"

Tuesday 21 December

Another post from me on Atlantic Lines, for the simple reason that my travel plans fell apart this morning. The plane to Glasgow I was to have taken at 8.30 am was cancelled, along with all other flights before midday. The reason was black ice on the runway. The later departure at 2.30pm would have left me with insufficient time to make my connection at Edinburgh. The two cities are only 45 miles apart, but transferring between the two airports requires two 30 minutes bus journeys, a 45 minute rail trip, and that with a decreased frequency of trains. Leaving to one side the joys of travelling on the M8 in Glasgow and the A8 in Edinburgh, and the weather conditions. So I returned to Stornoway, awaiting tomorrow morning's plane. If things go to pot again, I'm quite prepared to cancel the trip.

The one benefit of this morning's excursion was the lunar eclipse, pics of which I will post separately. Otherwise, the overnight frost combined with a fall of rain had turned roads and pavements into ice rinks.