Lockerbie, Scotland, is a quaint sheep-farming town that is rich in Scottish culture, history and tradition, with roots going back as far as the Vikings and Romans. Nestled on the English border in Dumfries and Galloway, this enchanting and friendly locale serves as a welcoming gateway to Scotland from England and as a sheep-farming town for surrounding farms. Although Lockerbie is only roughly 75 miles from the bustling streets of Glasgow, it remains home to just a few thousand people. Sheep freely roam the pastures and stately Victorian architecture featuring locally quarried red sandstone borders the streets. This tight-knit community could never have imagined the horror that would tear through the night and rip through the very fabric of life in Lockerbie. To that same end, the rest of the world could never have comprehended the outpouring of compassion and the dedication shown by Lockerbie residents as they began the horrific task of digging through the bent and burning remains of Pan Am 103.
The Horrific Moment It was shortly after 7:00 p.m. on December 21, 1988, just a few days before Christmas when Pan Am 103 exploded in the skies directly above Lockerbie. Less than 50 seconds later, the remains of the plane and passengers began to rain down upon the town, blazing through buildings, ripping through the landscape, and spreading a maelstrom of ignited jet fuel, jagged metal and destruction that stretched for 845 square miles.
The cockpit and forward section landed in a field near Tundergarth Church, 2.5 miles east of Lockerbie – the downed nosecone becoming one of the most iconic images of the aftermath. The rear fuselage fell amid the family homes of the Rosebank area of town. The wings and fuel tanks tore through the Sherwood Crescent neighborhood, first crashing into one house and then causing an explosion that left a 143-foot-long crater and rocketed more than 1,500 tons of debris into the air. Homes up to 75 yards away lost their roofs; the doors and windows of homes even farther away had their doors and windows shattered.
The impact was so intense that the British Geographical Survey measured an impact of 1.6 on the Richter scale. Fires burned across an area more than one mile long and half a mile wide. A total of 21 houses were completely destroyed, and amid the wreckage were the bodies of 11 Lockerbie residents and 259 passengers and crew members murdered in the violent attack. In the blink of an eye, Lockerbie had become a global disaster zone.