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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Monday, August 14, 2006

Terror attacks and flights

I posted this on another blog. I thought it was also relevant here.

The recent arrests of terrorists in London reminded me of the Pan Am Flight 103 (London to NY) that blew up over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. I remember the day well, because I was flying from London to New York at the same time. I decided to spend the first semester of my junior year abroad in London (along with Brian C., a friend I met while attending the UW-Madison. The program was with Ealing College, a small college in the west side of London. Our plan was to fly out in early August and return home on December 21, 1988. We were looking for the cheapest flights, which meant flying from Chicago to NY and then NY to London. Fortunately for us, we flew Continental and not Pan Am.I did not find out about the mass murder until I reached Chicago and heard about it from Brian C's parents. Although at the time I did not know much about the details, and therefore, did not think to contact anyone. I recall hearing someone talking about a "plane crash" in the bathroom in New York (actually Newark), but that is all I knew. We were picked up at O’Hare airport by Brian's parents in the vary-late afternoon and took our time getting back to Madison. (I think we stopped for dinner somewhere). During this time of non-contact (no cell phones then), my sister was frantically trying to locate me. She had left several messages at my friend's parent's house. I made the mistake of telling my parents about my flight time and arrival plans, but I did not provide further details (such as which airline I was flying on). My mother was distraught. I did not actually contact them until roughly 10 hours after the Lockerbie incident. Further, my sister had also contacted my fraternity house (where I was supposed to stay that night) asking if I had shown up there yet and whether anyone knew more details about the flight I was on. This call blossomed into the story that I was indeed on the Pan Am flight. When I appeared at the door that evening, my fraternity brothers were shocked to see me. It turns out that several people in the college program I attended were on the flight - some of them I knew. Chances are, I would have never seen them again, but it is horrific to think about it.

It is creepy to think about it now, but we considered Pan Am when we originally bought our tickets to London. It was one of the few other possible flights that had the return date and time we wanted (noon-Dec 21). However, the Pan Am tickets were more expensive mostly because the Pan Am flight went into Heathrow airport rather than Gatwick. I remember thinking to myself on the long train ride from Gatwick to London whether the extra hassle was worth the cost savings we got from taking Continental!!!It is also grim knowing that Pan Am 103 was only just a flight randomly selected by the terrorists - it could have been our flight....or anyone’s flight. Despite all this, I am still surprised that we have not been attacked again in America by terrorists since 9/11. The conventional wisdom was that we would be attacked. The pundits were wrong. I have a lot of my own theories as to why (outside of intelligence and police work)....but, you have to give credit to the government for preventing these attacks. They have done amazing work.