Wednesday, August 26, 2009
PAN AM 103 VICTIMS' FAMILIES AND SUPPORTERS PROTEST RELEASE OF BOMBER MASTERMIND AT UNITED KINGDOM UN MISSION
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
3700 Henry Hudson Parkway
Bronx, NY 10463
The parents' faces are etched with nearly 21 more years of grief. But their
children remain young, frozen in time, their bodies blasted apart in the
terror bomb which downed Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December
Kathleen and Jack Flynn stood outside the United Kingdom UN Mission in
mid-Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, for their murdered son John Patrick,
then 21. Hope Asrelsky stood for her daughter Rachel, also 21. Babette
Hollister stood for her daughter Katharine, then 20. Gathered about them
were demonstrators organized by Amcha-Coalition for Jewish Concerns. They
protested the release by Scotland of Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset
Ali al-Megrahi, sentenced to life for orchestrating the murder of the 270
victims of Pan Am 103, 189 of them Americans. It is widely believed that
al-Megrahi's release to a hero's welcome in Tripoli was in exchange for
British commercial oil and gas contracts with Libya.
"When there is such a miscarriage of justice we cry out", declared Amcha-CJC
national president Rabbi Avi Weiss. "In God's words, 'your brother's blood
cries out to me from the ground', here, the blood of 270 Pan Am 103 victims.
To the parents of the victims, there are no words which can give you proper
solace. But across the denominations and faiths, each soul of good
conscience is trying to emphasize with you. You have not forgotten;
millions of people have not forgotten. Every passenger on any airline in
the world has been affected.
"Al-Megrahi was released on 'compassionate' grounds. Misplaced compassion
doesn't help, but hurts. Letting al-Megrahi go sends a message to
terrorists, you can do it and get away with it. And certainly no one
believes that only one person took down the plane. To Libya and, I believe,
Syria, we say, we have not forgotten. When Muammar Qaddafi comes to the
United Nations, as expected in a few weeks, he should be absolutely shunned.
Col. Qadaffi: The voice of moral conscience will follow you from the UN to
the Libyan compound in Englewood, NJ, where you may stay. You will not be
safe from the souls of Pan Am 103."
"To lose your oldest son in such a horrific act of terrorism is such an
incredible happening," Kathleen Flynn explained. It has certainly impacted
our entire life. God has blessed us with three other children and seven
grandchildren, but the pain is there every day. Terrorism is here to stay,
and we have to be ever vigilant and make sure that the nations which
participate in terrorist acts are punished. We should not be doing business
with terrorist nations."
"It's an appropriate day for me to be here," Babette Hollister told the
crowd and assembled media. "I spent the morning up in the cemetery because
tomorrow would have been my daughter's 41st birthday. I didn't even attempt
to explain to her what I would be doing this afternoon. It seems such a wild
thing that a person would be released after murdering 270 people."
"I don't speak the language in Scotland", Hope Asrelsky declared. "But I
think they've changed the word 'compassion' to mean the release in exchange
for oil exports and contracts."
Rabbi Jason Herman of the West Side Jewish Center, posed the question, "What
would happen if 21 years from now America, in an act of 'compassion', would
release 9/11 organizer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? In these upcoming days of
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we speak of forgiveness and compassion. But not
holding someone accountable is not an act of compassion. The most ultimate
act of compassion is to hold someone accountable because it means that what
they did matters. Scotland hasn't learned that lesson; I hope the rest of
the world does."
Although the voices of the speakers were amplified to the many passersby on
the busy street a block from the United Nations, the protest also became
moments of healing. Rabbi Weiss gathered the protesters in a large circle.
"Let's close our eyes and try to feel the hurt", he told them. "Let's do
all we can to empathize with the families, to unite our souls, to stand as
Other speakers included Maharat Sara Hurwitz of the Hebrew Institute of
Riverdale and Rabbi Israel Stein, rabbi emeritus of Rodeph Sholom,
Rabbi Weiss urged participation in the noontime September 24th rally at Dag
Hammerskjold Plaza against the expected presence of Iranian president
Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly.