A Crying Cheerleader Captured the Anguish at SU After Students Perished Aboard Pan Am Flight 103

Dec 21, 2017

Flowers left in memory of a student at the Wall of Remembrance.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Twenty-nine years ago, Central New Yorkers were struggling to come to grips with the news that Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie Scotland, killing 35 Syracuse University students.  SU continued a tradition Thursday of holding an annual remembrance service and ceremony at 2:03 p.m., the time the plane and all 270 people on board were lost.

"On that day, it seemed the future was stolen.  Here at Syracuse University, we lost a generation.  Thirty-five young lives taken.  Taken before their potential and possibility could be realized."

Brian Konkol presided over his first remembrance ceremony as the new Dean of Hendricks Chapel.  He was a young man growing up in central Wisconsin in when he heard the news.

"I remember it vividly.  Years later, to now be here at Syracuse University and to see it lived out...it's really profound."

Lawrence Mason,  Jr. was a young Newhouse Professor who also worked part-time as a photographer for United Press International in 1988.  He remembers wrapping Christmas gifts at home when he got a call from his boss about the tragedy.  The assignment to shoot the basketball game that evening changed dramatically when he and a coworker were to capture the feeling on campus.

This is the photo of SU cheerleader Catherine Crossland captured by UPI Photographer David Grunfeld and trasmitted by Lawrence Mason, Jr. at a Syracuse University basketball game the day of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.
Credit David Grunfeld / UPI/1988

"David actually shot, and I transmitted to the world a picture of a crying cheerleader, one of our cheerleaders, which was the most widely seen picture out of Syracuse.  It ran on front pages all over the world.   It encapsulated just what everyone was feeling that night.   I don't remember who we played.  I don't remember who won.   I remember the dome being quiet.  There were still a lot of people there.   I just don't think they knew what to do with themselves."

Mason says it was a strange time on campus as the names of the students were slowly released.  

"There was no community to grieve together because the students were all gone.  The campus grieving started in mid-January when everyone came back to school, and we had a big memorial service in the Carrier Dome."

Mason says the students live on at SU.

 "These students had unfulfilled lives, and not from their own devices.  It's up to us to remember them, keep their memories alive, and do things in their honor.  That's what we do."

Family members, SU Faculty, and Dean of Hendricks Chapel Brian Konkol, center, gather at the Wall of Remembrance for a memorial ceremony.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News