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Grieving Families Of Lockerbie Crash Dead Ask - Why?

December 23, 1988 GMT

Undated (AP) _ Syracuse, N.Y., turned off Christmas lights in memory of 35 students as Americans nationwide grieved for the Pan Am jet crash victims, including a cabin attendant who’d planned to retire after Flight 103 landed.

The Boeing 747 crashed into a Scottish hamlet Wednesday night, killing all 258 on board. The dead included a top U.S. government Nazi hunter, a New York investment bank director, and students, military personnel and others coming home for the Christmas holidays.

Many expressed shock and anger at reports that terrorism may have been involved and that U.S. officials kept quiet about warnings it received two weeks ago that a terrorist attack on a Pan Am flight was planned.

″We had no knowledge of any terrorist threats and now we feel like this could have been prevented,″ said Bill Brunner, whose 20-year-old sister, Colleen, an Oswego (N.Y.) State College junior, was killed.

″The anger doesn’t surpass the feeling of Colleen being gone,″ Brunner added, ″but I’d certainly like to get a hold of the terrorists.″

″It’s unforgivable,″ Lucas Lowenstein, a 19-year-old Syracuse University sophomore who lost his 21-year-old brother and classmate, Alexander, said from his parents’ Mendham Township, N.J., home. ″Had any of that information gotten back to my father, my brother would never have taken a Pan Am flight.″

Those who for one reason or another had not boarded Flight 103 from London to New York expressed relief. Among the lucky ones was The Four Tops singing group, which was delayed by a British Broadcasting Co. TV taping.

Lead singer Levi Stubbs, who landed in Detroit on Thursday with his three colleagues, said the group had just finished the TV show and arrived at their hotel when he called his wife to tell her he’d missed Flight 103.

″And she was crying and carrying on, and I asked, ‘What’s the matter?’ And she told me what happened.″

One of the places hardest hit by the tragedy was Syracuse University, where 35 of the dead were enrolled in an international studies program.

Mayor Tom Young ordered the city’s Christmas lights turned off Thursday night and asked residents to do likewise. New York Gov. Mario Cuomo ordered flags flown at half-staff through Saturday.

Two memorial services were held Thursday at Hendricks Memorial Chapel. Many participants had red, puffy eyes, and nearly all hugged each other afterward.

″When one person dies we are all diminished. It is like when a finger is severed, the whole body hurts,″ the Rev. Pauli Kowalewski, the school’s Protestant chaplain, told about 400 people attending one service. ″You can be consoled because Christ is crying with us. Christ grieves, too.″

″It’s so sad. You can’t help but get pulled in,″ said Noelle Ellert, a freshman from Cedar Grove, N.J. ″I don’t know how Christmas is going to be normal this year.″

The university tried to take a business-as-usual approach and finish the final two days of examinations before recessing for a three-week holiday break. University Chancellor Melvin Eggers instructed faculty members to give final exams to distraught students only if they were prepared to take them.

Study program victims included 19-year-old twins Jason and Eric Coker of Mendham Township, N.J. Jason was majoring in liberal arts and communications at Syracuse; his brother was studying economics the University of Rochester, N.Y., officials said. Both played soccer and ran track.

Another student victim was Robert Schlageter, 20, of Warwick, R.I., whose postcard to his girlfriend arrived at her home the day he died.

″I haven’t seen it yet,″ said Marion Menzies, 20, a University of Rhode Island junior. She said her mother told her about the postcard while she mourned Thursday with the Robert’s parents.

At the Justice Department in Washington, flags were ordered flown at half- staff in memory of Michael Bernstein, an attorney with the agency’s Office of Special Investigations.

Bernstein, a 36-year-old father of two, had been in Austria negotiating a treaty to allow some former Nazis in the United States to be deported there.

Also killed was Mark A. Rein, a 44-year-old treasurer and director of the Salomon Bros. investment bank and father of two. Today would have been his 15th wedding anniversary, his widow, Denice, said from their New York City home.

″Thank God I have my kids and family,″ she said.

In Millbrae, Calif., friends gathered at the home of the parents of flight attendant Paul Garrett, 41, who had planned to open a boutique with his wife in Paris after 15 years with the airline.

″The terrible tragedy is that this was going to be his last flight,″ said Jan MacMichael, a friend who acted as a spokeswoman for the mourners.