Remembrance Week 2013

Candlelight vigil honors lives lost in Pan Am 103

Margaret Lin | Staff Photographer

Graham Herbert, the principal of Lockerbie Academy in Scotland, pays respect to the 35 SU students who died in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing at the candlelight vigil. This year is the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, which will be honored during Remembrance Week 2013.

From Hendricks Chapel, a large crowd of students walked toward the Place of Remembrance, holding small white candles.

They struggled to keep the flames lit, shielding them against the wind.

A few minutes earlier, they were gathered in a semicircle in front of the chapel steps for a vigil honoring the 35 SU students who died on Pan Am Flight 103 almost 25 years ago.  Terrorists set off a bomb aboard the plane over Lockerbie, Scotland. The students were coming home after studying abroad in London and Florence.

Each year, 35 seniors honor the memory and legacy of the students who died. Sunday marked the beginning of the annual Remembrance Week.

Erin Carhart, a Remembrance Scholar and senior policy studies major, gave the opening remarks, thanking the crowd and making room for Pat Burak, the first speaker.

Burak, an assistant professor of Russian literature, has a personal connection to the Pan Am bombing as Jason Coker, one of the victims, was a student of hers.

“My mission is to keep the spirit of Jason alive,” Burak said in her opening speech, which centered on her former student.

She read an old postcard Coker had written to her while he was visiting Russia in 1988.

In it, he told her his stay had been “fantastic,” but he wouldn’t share details about his trip until he returned to campus.

“I’m still waiting for that conversation,” Burak said, turning her head up to the sky as the crowd settled into a somber silence.

She asked those in attendance to keep the memory of the victims alive by telling their stories and through events like the candlelight vigil. At the end of her speech, she recited a hymn.

Tiffany Steinwert, dean of Hendricks, was the next to speak.

“Indeed this is a sacred week,” she said.

Steinwert commanded the crowd to look to one another and shout out loud what they would do to create a living legacy. The audience was initially hesitant.

By the third request, voices bellowed from different areas of the crowd:

“Heal.” “Be kind to others.” “Love more.” “Live well.”

Steinwert stepped away as the Remembrance Scholars began lighting each other’s candles, moving the flame down the line.

Carhart, the Remembrance Scholar who opened the vigil, approached the students.

“Share with your neighbors,” she said, as she lit the candles of those in the front row.

Shortly after everyone’s candles were lit, the students in attendance followed the Remembrance Scholars toward the Place of Remembrance in front of Hall of Languages.

During the walk, the wind picked up and the candle flames flickered. As they tried to keep the candles lit, the Remembrance Scholars gathered around the Place of Remembrance.

Each of the 35 scholars took turns reading a brief description of the student they were representing.

“Peter Peirce was a modern renaissance man,” read Tory Brewster, the Remembrance Scholar assigned to represent Peirce.

Like Peirce, Brewster is an architecture major who had studied abroad in Florence — a “happy coincidence,” Brewster said.

“I definitely connected with his passion,” she said. She even wrote to Peirce’s widow that it was “great to see into his life” while researching Peirce’s life for the ceremony.

To close the ceremony, an SU a capella group sang Electric Light Orchestra’s “Turn to Stone.” Some of those gathered by the wall looked up, some with tears in their eyes.

At the end of the song, students were told to blow out their candles and to leave when they felt it was appropriate.

Reflecting on the day the bombing happened, Burak, the first speaker, said what the vigil commemorates is sad, but the gesture itself is beautiful.

Said Burak: “Keep the Syracuse victims alive and ensure their immortality through stories and events like the one we’re having now.”

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