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'I can't forget what happened, it has changed my attitude to life'




AS the parish priest, Canon Patrick Keegans found himself at the centre of the Lockerbie tragedy. He lived at 1 Sherwood Crescent. His house was the one structure left standing after the explosion obliterated neighbouring buildings. He knew all of the 11 people killed in his street.

"I remember everything about the night. It feels very intense looking back after 25 years.

"There was an almighty explosion, the whole house went into darkness and shook. I thought I was going to die. I thought my mother was going to die.

"I looked out the front door and the whole street was gone. The smoke and flames were horrendous.

"I've always believed Megrahi was innocent. I still don't think we have had justice. These people were cheated out of their lives and they were cheated out of justice.

"I've always believed the Iran Air passenger flight blown out of the skies over the Persian Gulf in July 1988 [by a US warship] was the main cause of Lockerbie.

"That disaster killed 290 people and I think of their families at this time of year too.

"I don't think it has changed my life, but I was at the heart of it all, and that has given me a tremendous advantage as a person. Instead of simply telling people nice things that they want to hear, they can see the sadness in my eyes.

"That is enough - they know that they can talk to me. I'm glad I was there to witness the tremendous outpouring of love from Lockerbie. And that continues today."

Canon Keegans is now the administrator of St Margaret's Cathedral in Ayr.



"LOCKERBIE came to terms with the disaster very quickly and things began to return to normal. But at every anniversary we get brought back to what happened. We can't ignore it.

"I heard a noise outside. I just thought it was a thunderstorm. But it got louder and louder. I looked outside and the sky was bright orange, there was debris everywhere. It was a very surreal experience.

"I can't forget what happened, but it doesn't occupy every moment. However, it has changed my attitude to life. Before, little things like breaking a plate would get me upset.

"But now it wouldn't, as I know the most important thing is that people are ok."



THE 18-year-old Dorrance had been in Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary for three months, and was off duty, heading to a Christmas party in Lockerbie. As he drove from his home in Gretna Green, he saw a "massive explosion".

"I remember a passenger's body coming into the mortuary in the town hall. The following night I was doing a stint in the property centre.

"I saw some of that passenger's personal belongings, a diary in particular struck me. There were plans in that diary, a party in New York for the following day, but that person wouldn't be there for it.

"It was then I became conscious that I didn't want to get too involved. I didn't involve myself in knowing the back-story of the passengers, that was a conscious decision on my part.

"At around midnight, I was in the town hall with a colleague, and a farmer drew up outside.

"I still to this day don't know who the farmer was, but he had bits of aircraft wreckage in his pick-up truck and was handing them in to us.

"As we helped carry the bits and pieces of metal out of the truck, I noticed a young man in the passenger seat.

"I presumed he was a young relative of the farmer who couldn't be left alone that late at night. But then the farmer turned and said: 'I've found this body'. He was one of the young passengers.

"That's when the whole thing hit home. Lockerbie changed forever."



ARCHIBALD was working for the Dumfries and Galloway Standard in December 1988.

"We were among the first to arrive. I drove through a police cordon and ditched the car. One of my most vivid memories is seeing one of the plane's engines embedded on the street. It was only 10ft from the front door of a house.

"We also saw bodies in black bags being carried away.

''On the Saturday we went back to the town, there were hundreds of floral tributes. One caught my eye. It read: 'To the little girl in the red dress who made my flight from Frankfurt so enjoyable, you didn't deserve this'. I still feel tears welling up in my eyes now. That's when it hit me and I thought: 'How could someone do this? How could someone put a bomb on a plane?'"


Formerly of the Lockerbie Community Liaison Steering group

"AFTER the first anniversary we kept talking about the disaster, day after day after day. We never stopped. Then, suddenly, the conversation got back to other normal things. We knew we had talked the disaster out.

''There's a strong community spirit in Lockerbie, very strong. I compare it with what happened in Glasgow the other week, when a police helicopter crashed into the Clutha pub.

"If anything happens, people will come to help you."

Kerr was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 1989 New Year's Honours List.

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