April 3, 2019

Here is your Wednesday Wisdom series from the Family Assistance Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D., and distributed by the Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., www.fafonline.org. Reprint is available with written permission from the Foundation.

Loved Ones of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 Mark the Thirtieth Year in a Memorial Celebration

Great emphasis was placed on assuring the families that the FBI continues the investigation and considers solving the case a priority.


  December 21, 2018, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy—and a significant milestone for the families. A terrorist bomb blew the Boeing 747 out of the sky, taking the lives of 270 innocent victims, including 11 on the ground of a small village in Lockerbie, Scotland. Long-time friends of the Foundation, Carole and Glenn Johnson, Jr., whose only daughter Beth Ann, 21 years old, perished in the tragedy, shared details of the remembrance ceremonies for this month’s Wednesday Wisdom

    While the Victims of Pan Am 103 (VPAF103) families hold annual reunions and ceremonies at both the Arlington Cemetery and business meetings at Syracuse University—the thirtieth anniversary brought additional events. The night before the December 21st meeting, at a special dinner, two $5,000.00 scholarships were awarded to students seeking graduate degrees aimed at advancing security measures for travelers and prevention of terrorism. 

    Also, families were invited to the offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where it was announced that the investigation is still active and there has been a recent indictment of two men believed to be among those responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103. Great emphasis was placed on assuring the families that the FBI continues the investigation and considers solving the case a priority—even thirty years later.

    Glenn and Carole were on the ground floor of the VPAF103 organization, and the efforts of their group have led to advancements in safety and security throughout the world. 

...Carole was greatly helped emotionally by the interactions with others after the business meetings.


    Carole and Glenn began attending the meetings of VPAF103 in February 1989, shortly after the group formed. While much of the meeting pertained to the investigation and aviation safety in general, Carole was greatly helped emotionally by the interactions with others after the business meetings. Looking back on thirty years, both Carole and Glenn name their work with VPAF103 as the most critical part of their recovery, along with the love and support from family and friends in the loss of Beth and the tragic events of December 21, 1988.

    Following the work with VPAF103, the next most significant contribution to their recovery involves the work they have done to provide a first-class library for their community. While at first, they donated a room in Beth's name, in 2010 their contributions helped make it possible to build a brand-new state-of-the-art library. Beth’s picture and titles of her favorite books appear in artwork that is on display in the library, along with a rocking chair for reading to the younger community members—a request of Beth’s grandmother. Primarily due to their funding efforts and support, the library remains open on a regular schedule and was not forced to close down one day a week, as other county libraries have had to do because of shortness of funds. 

    In naming the third contribution that has helped in their recovery from the loss of Beth, the Johnson’s talked about the scholarships awarded in her name each year. Annual scholarships are given to Seton Hall University students where Beth went to college, in addition to the high school where Beth graduated. The Johnson's also donated two pianos to the chapel where Beth played every Sunday. Along with the pianos, the Johnson's have donated several other musical instruments, including a “magical flute” where anyone who plays it has more confidence in their performance due to the quality of the sound. These gifts and numerous tributes that have been set up in the US and the United Kingdom in honor of their daughter provides solace to her parents. They take great pride in knowing that while Beth is not here physically, other children are receiving opportunities to become educated as part of her legacy.

Still, to this day, Glenn is part of the ASAC group and has been recognized and officially honored for his contributions.


    Carole and Glenn’s dedication to the advancement of safety and security for the entire world has opened doors for other families who have lost loved ones in aviation tragedies. In Handbook for Human Services Response [1], I detail how they have helped survivors of many airline crashes. Their work has formed the basis of many of the safety and security programs that we rely on today as air travelers. Among their many accomplishments, Carole and Glenn helped the families of US Air Flight 427, establish a support group when the B-737 crash happened near their hometown, taking the lives of all 132 on board. This group, along with survivors of five airline crashes, including VPAF103 founded the National Air Disaster Alliance (NADA) in 1995.  

    Following the establishment of NADA, families and other survivors would now occupy seats on policy-making committees and be recognized for their efforts at creating a world more safe and secure for those following behind. From the earliest stages of the FAA Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), VPAF103 had a seat. Still, to this day, Glenn is part of the ASAC group and has been recognized and officially honored for his contributions. While Glenn stepped down as Chairman of the VPAF103, he remains an officer, serving as the group’s treasurer. 

    Carole and Glenn remain devoted to helping others in their daughter’s name. A look back at their interview describing their loss of Beth and how badly they and other families were treated, detailed in my 2004 book, shows how the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 came to be. The families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 joined with countless other survivors, have collectively shaped how families are treated today in the aftermath of airline crashes and multiple industry tragedies in the US and throughout the world.


[1] Handbook for Human Services Response, Coarsey, C.V. 2004


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