Paul  Rae

Paul Rae

United Kingdom
About: Lockerbie Area Resident, First Disaster Responder - Firefighter
Bio: Paul Rae was working as a retained firefighter at the time of the bombing. His story includes his experience of the disaster, and the mental impact it left on those who were part of the search and rescue efforts.
  • First Responder
  • Hometown Hero

A Lesson on Heroism & Humanity

The day of the attack

12/21/1988

Paul Rae was working for the ICI plastic film manufacturing company in Dumfries when news broke of the bombing. As a retained firefighter, and with friends and family in Lockerbie, he was desperate to get to the scene as soon as possible. Alongside his former colleague Les Gracie, Paul begins his story with his memories of the night of the bombing. 

Paul worked through the night helping out where he could, and as the hours passed, he realised just how serious the situation was. 

Like so many members of the community, Paul offered his assistance wherever it was needed. He found himself helping the army as they began to recover debris.

The days following the attack

12/22/1988

Paul recalls the struggle that many in the community felt as the town was inundated with the world's media. Hundreds of reporters, photographers and television news crews had descended upon Lockerbie in the days following the attack.

It's been widely documented that some of the media outlets were very intrusive and the local residents quickly became guarded, as Paul explains.

The community that formed as a result of the attack

1/1/1989

The community in Lockerbie was praised by family and friends of loved ones for the way in which they responded to the disaster. From welcoming strangers into their homes, to baking for the emergency services and washing personal items belonging to victims.

Lockerbie quickly earned respect and adoration from all over the world, with thousands of letters and donations sent to the residents as a mark of gratitude. 

Paul believes that if the same situation were to unfold today, the response would be the same. 

Long-term effects of the attack

4/20/2023

Paul believes that the attack has had a long lasting impact on the firefighters who were involved in the search, rescue and recovery efforts. Hundreds of firefighters worked for days and nights following the disaster, and many witnessed horrific sights.

For example, the fire crews had access to specialist ladders and equipment, which meant they were responsible for checking roofs for bodies and body parts.

Some of the firefighters would then have to recover them and take them to the make-shift morgue. Having worked as a retained firefighter for decades, Paul says that a few of his colleagues still struggle with what they witnessed. Paul's colleague Les Gracie agrees.

Many changes were implemented as a result of the Lockerbie bombing, including the way in which fire crews were debriefed following a tragic event or fatality. There are now processes and protocol in place to help protect the mental wellbeing of firefighters. 

However, Paul believes that some of those who worked through the events of the disaster, are still battling their demons.

Paul, alongside his fellow firefighters, was presented with certificate of thanks from the Firemaster, who acknowledged their "exceptional" work in connection with the Lockerbie Air Disaster.

The certificate presented by the Firemaster in acknowledgement of the work carried out by the firefighters in response to the bombing

Paul wore his uniform during an anniversary trip to Syracuse

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