- Robert S. Mueller, III
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- 20th Anniversary Commemoration of Bombing of Pan Am 103 Arlington National Cemetery
- Arlington, Virginia
- December 21, 2008
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 stone.
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 darkness.
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 do we.
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 that bond.
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 us.
We renew our efforts to keep our people safe, and to rid the world of terrorism.
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.