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Lockerbie 30 years on

Feb 07, 2019
Michael Gerson explains how the Lockerbie plane crash will be long remembered by the London moving industry in particular.

December 21, 1988 was a memorable day in the small Scottish village of Lockerbie.  This was the day when Pan Am Flight 103, on route from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York, crashed there killing 243 passengers, 16 members of the crew and 11 local residents.  The plane was blown out of the sky by a Libyan terrorist.

At first sight that might not seem to have much to do with the international moving industry, but Michael Gerson recently contacted The Mover to point out that movers, particularly those in London, were very much in the front line following the disaster.

As the flight was just before Christmas, many of the passengers were Americans, some of them students, who were returning home to spend the festive season with their families. When they did not arrive, their families were faced with the traumatic task of travelling to London to identify and recover their belongings.  Moving companies throughout the capital were there working with them at this most upsetting time.  Presumably, movers in Frankfurt and throughout Germany did the same.

Of course, many of the important items were very personal, including photos and letters.  Many families were unable to be sure which items belonged to their loved ones as they had been acquired while living in London.  “When choosing our crews for those jobs we couldn’t just pick the next crew available,” said Michael.  “We had to try to decide who would be most sympathetic, compassionate and helpful to the families at the time and, of course, be emotionally strong enough themselves to get through it.”

All movers have to deal with difficult situations such as moves resulting from death, divorce, illness and family breakups.  But to have this concentration of desperately sad circumstances to handle all at the same time took its toll on many of the movers.  Indeed, 30 years later, and although Michael is no longer working in the industry, it’s still indelibly printed in his mind.

It’s easy, perhaps, to think that most people who move house are doing it because they choose to.  This example is one that clearly demonstrates that the mover’s lot is not always a happy one and underlines the skill, understanding and empathy with which they all need to be endowed.  Anyone who feels that being a mover is not a skilled job, should think again.

Following a three-year joint investigation by Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), arrest warrants were issued for two Libyan nationals in November 1991. In 1999, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi handed over the two men for trial at Camp Zeist, Netherlands, after protracted negotiations and UN sanctions. In 2001, Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was jailed for life after being found guilty of 270 counts of murder in connection with the bombing. In August 2009, he was released by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He died in May 2012 as the only person to be convicted for the attack.

In 2003, Gaddafi accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation to the families of the victims, although he maintained that he had never given the order for the attack.

Lockerbie 30 years on

Photo: The Lockerbie air disaster garden of remembrance.

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