Courtesy of Lawrence MasonRemembrance Week 2012
Casting a shadow: Nearly 10 years later, Lockerbie and SU communities remember deceased scholar
Remembrance Week: Part 3 of 4
To this day Melissa Chessher still has Andrew McClune’s phone number scribbled on a worn piece of paper, now so old it’s unreadable. She still has the pictures of McClune and his family in her office.
Chessher, the magazine department chair, went to McClune’s high school prom when she visited him in his hometown of Lockerbie, Scotland. She befriended his mother and spent time at his home with his family.
His mother wrestled with the idea of even sending McClune to Syracuse University, but understood how important it would be to the 2002 Lockerbie Scholar.
McClune died ten years ago on Dec. 13, 2002, when he fell from a seventh-floor Sadler Hall window. As SU honors the 24th anniversary of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, which killed 35 SU students, the campus continues to honor McClune’s memory as well.
Investigators ruled his death as an accident and closed the case. Reports showed that McClune had a blood alcohol level of 0.17, but his toxicology report was negative for the presence of any other drugs.
Officers never uncovered any new information regarding how McClune fell from the window. Sgt. Tom Connellan, of the Syracuse Police Department, worked on the case at the time. Ten years later, he said that there is no evidence criminal force was used against McClune. Officers also ruled out the possibility of suicide.
Students who were with McClune that night said they were all drinking on the third floor of Sadler when McClune began speaking gibberish and went to the bathroom, The Daily Orange reported on Feb. 26, 2003. Friends who followed McClune there said he was visibly agitated and then went to the seventh floor, where he entered another friend’s room.
The seventh-floor resident then struggled with McClune, causing the resident to seek medical attention for his shoulder. McClune was later found outside of Sadler after falling from the window, and two hours later, medical personnel pronounced him dead at Upstate Medical University.
Chessher, the magazine department chair, said McClune’s mother and brothers can’t find peace because they will never be able to solve the mystery of McClune’s death.
Every year on Dec. 13, Lawrence Mason, professor of multimedia, photography and graphic design, writes to McClune’s family in Lockerbie.
He and Chessher were both close to McClune during his time at SU, after spending six months with him in Lockerbie while writing a book about the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster.
“His family told me once that their biggest fear was that he would be forgotten,” he said. “They didn’t want him to be forgotten at home and they didn’t want him to be forgotten here.”
Reflecting on McClune’s death, Chessher began tearing up.
“All I could think about is that this woman had given us her son and trusted that we would take care of him, and we weren’t able to,” Chessher said. “I feel like we let down our end of the bargain. They took care of us and took care of our loved one, and we failed. We couldn’t reciprocate.”
McClune was known for his athleticism, specifically for his talent for curling, a strong tradition in Lockerbie, Mason said.
McClune created SU’s club curling team, he said. Mason, the adviser of the team, said he will always remember standing in the observation room and watching McClune’s elegant and nearly perfect glide on the ice, a difficult task in the sport.
McClune and his three other teammates qualified for the U.S. Collegiate Championships in St. Paul, Minn. Although McClune died before the competition, the team decided to compete without their “skipper.”
“They dedicated themselves to Andrew,” Mason said. “They started every match with a huddle and then they would break the huddle and say ‘For Andrew.’”
McClune’s memory will be honored throughout Remembrance Week, which began Sunday. His portrait hangs in the Shaffer Art Building rotunda and his name is mentioned in the Remembrance Convocation program.
While many wondered if the Lockerbie program would continue after McClune’s death, applications from Lockerbie Academy never decreased, said Samuel Gorovitz, one of the Lockerbie Scholars program founders.
“The Lockerbie Scholar Program, as a program, makes real the fact that it’s possible to endure the most grotesque calamity and yet in a way rise up and go on with something positive,” Gorovitz said.
Throughout Remembrance Week, McClune’s legacy has been on Claire Dorrance’s mind. Dorrance, one of this year’s Lockerbie Scholars, didn’t personally know McClune, but was close with his mother Deborah and his youngest brother Christopher.
McClune is still remembered and loved by those in Lockerbie. His presence is still a part of the community, she said.
“This week brings up so many emotions,” Dorrance said. “It has allowed me to have a deep connection with someone I have never met.”
Dorrance said she and Rachel Nicholson, the other Lockerbie Scholar, are planning on incorporating McClune and his legacy into their speeches at the Rose Laying Ceremony.
“This has been the year of my life,” Dorrance said. “There is not a day that goes by where I’m not thankful. The fact that it was cut short for Andrew is just so sad.”
While Chessher said she is torn about whether McClune should be included in Remembrance Week ceremonies, since he isn’t a victim, she said he shares similarities with the 35 students who died.
Like those who died, McClune was curious about the world and excited to experience other cultures.
Mason said he’d like the community to see McClune’s legacy in the form of all the Lockerbie Scholars who continue to come to SU.
Said Mason: “I think that if people see Andrew in the eyes of the current scholars, then that’s a good way to remember him because they share the same hopes and dreams and came from the same background from a small town in Scotland.”
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