Josephine Donaldson

Josephine Donaldson

United Kingdom
About: Resident in Lockerbie Area, Worked in Lockerbie Area, Member of Families of Pan Am 103 Lockerbie, Member of Lockerbie Friendship Group
  • Hometown Hero
  • Survivor

Cared For Two American Girls Who Were Born & Died On The Very Same Day

The day of the attack


Josephine Donaldson was at home with her husband when the attack happened. The couple owned a builders business next to the petrol station, just one street away from Sherwood Crescent, which became the site of the worst terrorist atrocity seen in the UK.

She begins her story with the moment the Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie:

Josephine describes the feeling of guilt in the immediate aftermath, a feeling echoed by many of the town's residents.

Josephine and her husband lived just metres away from where the plane crashed to the ground. It wasn't until they came out of their house that they realised how close they were to the plane. 

The days following the attack


As part of the rescue efforts, the military was summoned to Lockerbie. Dozens of young soldiers were tasked with grim jobs like putting tags on the bodies as they were sent to the temporary morgue at the ice-rink:

The women who washed


Josephine, like so many of Lockerbie's residents, wanted to contribute to rescue and recovery efforts following the bombing.

Josephine was one of many women who put themselves forward to help sort, wash, fold and pack thousands of items belonging to the Pan Am 103 passengers, whose bodies had been strewn for miles across the countryside.

The "laundry ladies" as they would become known, ensured that personal belongings and clothing were carefully and respectfully cleaned before being returned to loved ones.

The ladies spent months washing thousands of items, and sometimes had to set aside their own emotions to deal with the task at hand.

"My two girls"


Josephine and the other laundry ladies spent months cleaning the possessions- and sometimes they would come across particularly poignant artifacts. 

Josephine became particularly attached to two victims: Nicole Boulanger and Amy Shapiro, two Syracuse University students who were born on the same day (October 28, 1967) and who died together on the same day.

She still honors "her two girls" today:

Strangers from around the globe sent hundreds of letters to the townspeople of Lockerbie, to support them in their grief and thank them for opening their hearts and homes. The efforts of the laundry ladies, like so many of the volunteers from Lockerbie, were truly appreciated by families of victims all over the world.

Josephine received a letter from a friend of Amy Shapiro, Roselee Papandrea Taylor:



Josephine had never met any relatives of either Nicole Elise Boulanger or Amy Elizabeth Shapiro, until a visit to Syracuse decades after the disaster.

Josephine describes what it was like meeting the family of Nicole Boulanger on a trip to Syracuse:

In 2018, as the 30th anniversary of the attack approached, one of Nicole Boulanger's former classmates composed a song about Josephine's story.

Amy Englehardt was a senior in the Drama Department at Syracuse University and knew five of the victims. She attended Nicole's memorial and described her as a "blossoming triple threat of a performer- there was nothing she couldn't do well. And she was a beautiful, kind person to boot". 

Amy Englehardt meeting Josephine Donaldson, after she wrote and recorded the song, "Girl in the Garden".

After watching a BBC documentary in 2018, Amy was inspired to write a song about Josephine finding Nicole's purse in her back garden.

She titled the song, 'Girl in the Garden', and it would eventually become the centrepiece of a theatrical play Amy wrote about the tragedy.

You can listen to the song below, and it is also available on Nicole's page, which can be found in the Living Memorial section of the website. 

The mystery of the single shoes


Despite the horrors and unimaginable grief that the laundry ladies were having to live with on a daily basis, Josephine and her friends were able to find some light in the darkness.

Josephine recalls one particular story about a suitcase full of single shoes.


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