All day long the good folk of Lockerbie walked up the High Street to their town hall and on the public notice board scanned the list containing the names of more than 200 people who were friends, neighbours, relatives, acquaintances, or just fellow citizens.
The etiquette of relationships did not matter. Those who read the list and those whose names appeared on it had both been touched by the awful consequences of international terrorism.
Lockerbie is a friendly market town whose western spine leans against the A74, the main artery between Scotland and the south. Yesterday this accommodating little place laid bare to the world its wounds, its wounded, its dead, and the hundreds who it had been decided would die on its gentle fields
Those named on the list were the lucky ones. They had been evacuated from their houses, many of which were exposed in the bright sunshine yesterday as mere blackened shells, but had now all been safely accounted for.
Stripped of its civic functions, the town hall now served as an emergency morgue. By last night, crew and passengers from the Pan Am jumbo and local people lay dead. Dumfries and Galloway police estimated that more than 150 bodies lay in six acres within a 10-mile radius.
Yesterday morning I went to The Main Farm and looked over a dyke at the remains of the cabin of the jumbo jet. It lay, distressed, on its side like a giant toy discarded by a spoiled child. But this mindless fit of pique had the bloody hand of the callous zealot on it.
I walked along the lane towards the farm to speak to the farmer, Mr Jim Wilson.
As I passed the old churchyard I saw sheep grazing in the field to my left. Something, which I took to be a motionless, possibly dead, sheep with a gash in its side, caught my eye. It was the naked body of a middle-aged man. A pole stuck into the ground with a piece of cloth fluttering at the top marked the spot.
On my right a small bundle, which can only have been the body of a child, lay wrapped in plastic sheeting. Looking up the hill I saw more poles and more bundles. It was a terrible massacre.
Mr Wilson was speaking to the postman outside his front door. If you took away the calamitous toy, the bundles and the body, it was an idyllic scene. Mr Wilson said there were between 50 and 60 bodies on his land. He had discovered many of them himself.
“You would not know what age they were. They were battered beyond recognition. Some hit the earth with such force that you could almost bury them in the indentations they made in the ground. I have never seen anything like this before and I never want to see anything like it again in my lifetime.’’
Mr Wilson said that most of the bodies were naked, apart from socks. He had been told the effects of decompression had pulled off their clothes.
In one appallingly macabre incident, a falling body had killed one of his sheep.
When the plane came down and cut an apocalyptic swathe from west to east across the south of Lockerbie, Mr Wilson thought it was an electrical storm. The noise he took to be thunder. When the power in his house went off, he blamed lightning.
When he went outside to fetch his son-in-law, Mr Kevin Anderson, who lives in the cottage nearby, he knew there had been no natural storm. Another falling body had brought down his power lines.
The local doctor took one look at the futile scene and returned to Lockerbie to tend the wounded. Mr Luciano Dovesi, one of Mr Wilson’s neighbours, tried to find the pulse of a stewardess, but there was no life in this field.
On the way down the hill into town I passed the golf course, which contained about another 60 bodies. More sticks, more bundles, more wreckage. Back in Carlisle Road glaziers, slaters and joiners wanted to repair damaged houses. Under their ladders bits of the plane lay where they had fallen.
The wife of a former chairman of Lockerbie Community Council told me: “Everyone seems to be going about in a daze. Everything is off on a tangent.’’ Mr Robert Riddett, the present chairman, said, “Everyone I have spoken to, everyone in the town, is affected in one way or another. I saw it myself and got a terrible shock.
Everyone is in the same state. We have had a terrible devastation. I have spoken to as many people as I can and I still do not know who has gone. The whole town is shattered.’’