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Lockerbie Friday, 18 December, 1998, 07:36 GMT
Rising from the ashes
Rubble in Lockerbie
Scars are healing but memories remain
BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston visits Lockerbie and looks at how those who survived the disaster have rebuilt their lives.

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Father Patrick Keegans looks out from his house in Lockerbie at a row of neat bungalows. The houses are newer than others in the neighbourhood and this is the only clue that Sherwood Crescent is different from other streets in the town.

But Father Keegans, like many others in Lockerbie know the truth. Ten years after the Lockerbie disaster, the priest can still see in the place of the bungalows the horrific scene that that greeted him shortly after 7 pm on the 21 December, 1988.

Father Keegans: "I don't know how I survived."
"I looked out and could not believe what I was seeing. There was fire everywhere, consuming the crescent. It was quite unbelievable," he said.

It was a night he will never forget and one he knows he was lucky to survive. He was at home preparing for Christmas when suddenly there was noise like a loud wind.

Then came a roar and the sound of things hitting the roof, followed by the huge explosion that engulfed the crescent in flames.

Daylight revealed the extent of the horror. At the end of the crescent three houses had vanished without trace. Eleven people were dead.

It also revealed the miracle of how Father Keegans's house had survived; damaged but mostly intact.

The Inferno in Sherwood Crescent
There was talk of divine intervention but whatever the reason the priest put his survival to good use.

As a clergyman, people turned to him for support. He also shared their pain. He conducted the first funeral for ten-year-old Joanne Flannigan and counselled bereaved relatives from Scotland and overseas.

And he forged bonds of love and friendship with many of them which strengthen with each passing year.

There are other incredible stories of survival and friendship. One concerns Ella Ramsden. She was at home in Park Place that night with her pet dog Cara. The house was demolished around them, yet they were pulled out uninjured.

In her garden lay 20 bodies, two of them were from the family of Gerry Buser from New Jersey who lost her husband, son and pregnant daughter.

Gerry and Ella have formed a friendship typical of many which have grown up between the people of Lockerbie and victims' families overseas.

Bill Parr: "I've learned to live with the memories"
Joe Horgan from America lost his brother-in-law. He says: "There are times when we lost our faith in our fellow man and all you had to do was come here and experience the people in this town. They reached out in the midst of their own devastation and held our hand and guided us."

Over ten years Lockerbie has healed. The physical scars went first. The mental scars took longer. Bill Parr, a search and rescue dog handler involved in the hunt for survivors of the crash has been haunted by nightmares and flashbacks.

"At first they were in colour," he said. "The bodies talked to me. Nowadays, they are in black and white and they no longer talk. I've learned to live with it."

The approach of the anniversary has revived the memories. Lockerbie was reluctant to mark the event in a major way.

So to keep things as low-key as possible, an ecumenical church service was organised to which everyone and no-one is invited.

Garden of Rembrance
That said, this is likely to be the last ceremony of its kind. Local councillor Marjory McQueen says Lockerbie is a different place to ten years ago.

"People have left the area; died; been born. Those who were here will never forget and will never want to forget, but the town has changed and it is time to move on and concentrate on the future."

Father Patrick Keegans only partially agrees. He has maintained a closer involvement in the legal, political and diplomatic dimensions of the story than most in the town for whom it is little more than a passing interest. The bottom line for him is that Lockerbie remains unresolved.

Survivors of Lockerbie say they can never forget but life moves on
Links to more Lockerbie stories are at the foot of the page.

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