When I used to visit the park growing up, my father occasionally scolded me for playing too close to a memorial for war veterans. I respected his wishes, but didn't quite understand the importance of a wall with a bunch of names on it.
Ten years later I wonder if the students who pass the Place of Remembrance outside the Hall of Languages see it as anything more than just a wall with a bunch of names on it.
To the Syracuse University classes of 1989 to 1992, that Pan Am 103 victims memorial is much more than names. It honors classmates lost on a dreadful day, December 21, 1988. Memories from that afternoon, and the days that follow, will remain with us forever.
Some details of those days are fuzzy. I don't remember what the weather was like. If I had to guess, I'd go with cold and dank. But I have dozens of recollections of late December 1988 that are as vivid as any in my memory. Looking back I see that those days changed me. But it's a growth process I wish I'd never experienced.
It happened just as the semester was wrapping up, toward the end of final exams. Per the plan of the terrorists, it happened to people heading home to their loved ones, people looking forward to the holidays.
Like many others, I remember where I was the moment I heard. I had just arrived home at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house after taking a final exam and found out as I stepped through the door. It was known that a group of Syracuse University students studying in London was on board. Two of our fraternity brothers were studying in London.
I headed up to my room when the special telephone number set up by Pan Am flashed on the screen. Five minutes later I was confirming the fears of the growing group in the living room. Gary Colasanti had boarded Flight 103.
The SAE house was just a couple of doors down from the Catholic Center. A daily late afternoon Mass was held in a small chapel that I tried to get to once a week. Struggling with what to do next, a couple of us headed there followed by a group of 8 or 10 more, few of them Catholic, a few who weren't Christians. The differences of theology and religious politics that we sometimes discussed didn't seem very important.|
Father Charles Borgognoni had heard the news only minutes before Mass. He was the most emotional I had seen him in four years. If you have attended a Catholic wedding, you will be surprised to learn that the daily Mass usually lasts only 15 minutes. On that day it was longer. Students continued to arrive after it was completed, young people searching for answers to the unanswerable.
That afternoon we lost friends and colleagues. Acquaintances and classmates. Boyfriends, girlfriends, brothers, and sisters. The pain of those around us magnified our grief. Almost everyone I knew lost someone important. A girl I was dating lost a sorority sister. A classmate lost a girl he loved. As bad as we felt, we all knew someone who felt worse. Anyone who was on campus will never forget that day.
That evening we went to an emotional Hendricks Chapel prayer service led by clergy of various denominations who ministered on campus. In our grief, we went back to our dorms, houses, and apartments to discover we were part of the news. The service was on the network news specials, sandwiched between live reports from a shattered Scottish village and grim-faced anchormen asking questions of the aviation and terrorism experts kept handy for such occasions.
Gary Colasanti was from the North Shore of Boston, and I lived about an hour south. I liked Gary and had looked forward to his return. He had a zest for life that was contagious and was the kind of person everyone liked to be around. We were friends, but he was younger and we weren't best friends. Although it clearly was the thing to do in retrospect, I struggled over whether to contact his family after returning home from Syracuse. I wondered if it would be presumptuous or inconsiderate for me to call.
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Richard Paul Monetti
Anne Lindsey Otenasek
Peter R. Peirce
Sarah S.B. Philipps
Frederick "Sandy" Phillips
Louise "Luann" Rogers
Thomas Britton Schultz