In Memory of Frank Lautenberg

Frank Duggan, VPAF 103 President

The death of Senator Frank Lautenberg today was a loss to the Congress, his constituents in New Jersey, and especially to the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing. He was the best friend we ever had in the Senate, and was never at a loss to “do the next thing” since this tragic event nearly 25 years ago.

Our group, Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc., was credited with many successful lobbying efforts over these years, but in fact, most of these were planned and initiated by Senator Lautenberg, and several were over the objections of the State Department. In order to put pressure on the Libyan government, he offered a series of strong sanctions, held up appropriations for building a new embassy, blocked the confirmation of an ambassador to Libya, and exerted pressure whenever and however he could against the murderous regime of Col. Gadhafi. We met with him and his staff many times, and he earned the nickname “Uncle Frank”.

Our first interaction with him was when he was appointed to the Presidents Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, which investigated that bombing, and I traveled with him when the Commission visited the site in Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1989. The people of this small town, which had also suffered great loss, were marvelous and caring. In their efforts to do whatever they could, they had gathered everything that had fell from the sky and tried to determine what belonged to which passengers. They cleaned everything and took photos of items that they felt should be returned to families, including all of the gifts and Christmas presents.

I will always remember Frank Lautenberg, with tears in his eyes, as he viewed these photo albums. It was terribly moving for all of us, and he often mentioned that as we talked many years later. He was a tough, New Jersey guy, but on that day he was a grieving father witnessing the results of an unspeakable tragedy.

There will never be another Uncle Frank.