The legacy of Lockerbie

Struggling with the aftermath of Pan Am Flight 103

The Bafta-winning director of After Lockerbie, George Rosie, recalls his experiences with the families of the victims in Granta, poignantly describing the varying ways they dealt with their grief.

From Georgia Nucci, who, upon losing her teenage son, flew down to Bogotá to adopt four children, to Suse Lowenstein, who created "life-size sculptures of naked, grief-stricken women, modelled by the wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts of the people who died", every family endured its tragedies differently.

A few sought solace in cold, hard science; Bob and Eileen Monetti watched an officially filmed re-creation of the bombing, seeking reassurance that their son didn't suffer when the fuselage exploded. "It would have been all over in a second. Rick and the rest of the folks on that plane would never have known what happened. That's what we tell ourselves anyway," said Bob Monetti bleakly at the time.

Rosie gently yet convincingly writes: "I've no doubt Kenny MacAskill -- who I happen to know slightly -- was genuinely touched by [Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi's] wretched and terminal condition. But if he'd learned more about the measures some families took to cope with their losses perhaps his 'compassion' for Megrahi might have ebbed."

Following his release, controversy has raged over Megrahi's culpability, but, whether he is innocent or not, the tales of grief related here are both brutal and unforgettable.

For more, take a look at Peter Wilby's First Thoughts column and James Macintyre's piece on "The folly of devolution" .

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On Wheels

A new poem by Patrick Mackie

The hills swarm and soften towards the end of the day just as
flames do in a fireplace as the evening
loosens and breaks open and lets out night.
A nasty, grotesque, impatient year ended,
and the new one will be bitter,
tired, opaque. Words wrangle in every inch of air,
their mouths wide open in stupid shock
at what they have just heard every time they hear anything. Venus,
though, blazes with heavy wobbles of albeit frozen
light. Brecht, who I like to call my
brother just as he called Shelley his,
has a short late poem where he sits by a roadside, waiting
while someone changes the wheel on his car,
watching with impatience, despite not liking
either the place that he is coming from or
the place that he is going to. We call it
connectivity when in truth it is just aggression
and imitation writ ever larger. Poems, though,
are forms of infinite and wry but also briskly
impatient patience. Brecht’s poem seems to end,
for instance, almost before you
can read it. It wheels. The goddess is just a big, bright
wilderness but then soon enough she clothes
herself again in the openness of night and I lose her.

Patrick Mackie’s latest collection, The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints, is published by CB Editions.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies

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