Remarks by keynote speaker Ann McLaughlin Korologos

The former U.S. secretary of labor was the chair of the presidential commission that investigated air safety after the Pan Am 103 bombing.

Thank you, Frank, for your kind introduction. The responsibility of leading the commission was much less daunting to me than it otherwise would have been because you were by my side guiding the process and working directly with many here today.

The commission also benefitted by having a small and dedicated group of public servants as its members. There were just seven of us: Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey; Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York; Representative James Oberstar of Minnesota; Representative John Hammerschmidt of Arkansas, former Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo; and General Thomas Richards, who was at that time retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Though we were of different political parties, some active in politics and others not, we approached our task in a nonpartisan way, unified in our determination to find the truth. I am grateful to the commission members for their service and for having the courage to release a report that was fair, yet unsparing in its call for reform among all segments of the public and private sectors that influence the safety of the U.S. civil aviation.

As I was thinking about what I was going to say today, I was sorry that I was unable to touch base with Senator Lautenberg, who died in June. I know he would have shared the sentiments I am expressing to you today.
Every year for the past 25, we have gathered on this day to formally remember the friends, family, and loved ones who died in that tragic event.

Yet for each of you, the families of those we lost in the Pan Am 103 tragedy, this day is similar to every other day of the year. Because the ones we lost are with us always. We often think about how nice it would be to share with them the joys and sorrows we’ve experienced since that time. Or to relax with them at the end of the day and just talk. Wouldn’t they marvel at the amazing feats of our grandchildren?

Frank Duggan invited me to participate in this event because I was chairman of the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism. I want you to know, however, that I am also here as someone who lost people with whom I was close on that terrible day. Long before I was asked to serve on the President’s Commission, I learned the shocking news that my dear friends Kathleen and Jack Flynn had lost their son J.P. I then learned that Karen Noonan, a bright and promising young woman who worked for me as an intern at the Department of Labor that summer, had also been aboard Pan Am 103. I’m comforted to have Kathleen and Jack Flynn and Karen’s parents, Pat and Nancy Noonan, here today. It is especially nice that they are joined by J.P.’s brother, Brian, and sisters Krissy and Karey and their children; as well as Karen’s sister, Dawn, her husband, and their three children.

I am here today as one of you. And like you, I have remembered those I lost during countless moments on countless days since then.

Today, I think how proud our loved ones would be to see all that has been accomplished as a result of your sheer tenacity. How satisfied they would be with your miraculous resilience. Experts have long marveled at how some people are able to adapt and rebuild their lives even after devastating tragedies. They have found that one of the most important factors contributing to such resilience is having a supportive community of family and friends. You came together as strangers united in your suffering. Over time, you became a community with a shared resolve to seek justice and reform. For 25 years, you have worked tirelessly together to help assure that our nation will do whatever it takes to bring terrorists to justice and prevent others from experiencing the unspeakable loss that you experienced.

The exciting news this week that Libya is stepping up its assistance to the Lockerbie investigation is further testament to the power of your advocacy.

As I reflect on the progress we’ve made in aviation security and the fight against terrorism, I see the roots of that progress in the more than 60 recommendations we brought forth in the report from the President’s Commission.
Although it was officially a report to the President, my colleagues and I always felt we were producing the report for you. Our intent was to give voice to your concerns and to honor you and your loved ones
We held five public hearings in 1989 and 1990 to hear testimony from a diverse group of individuals: officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of State, airline executives, pilots, flight attendants, and other members of the aviation community, aviation security experts, and many others.

The very first people we heard from were members of the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103. Your heartfelt testimony on November 17, 1989, put everything we were to do subsequently into the proper context. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Perhaps the most moving aspect of our inquiry was the commission’s visit to Lockerbie, Scotland. We sought to understand the grief of this small town where 11 (of their own also) perished that day. What we found in the people of Lockerbie was a quiet grace. They shared your suffering and felt a deep bond with you. The commissioners were especially touched to see that citizens of Lockerbie had carefully collected and tended to the personal belongings they found among the debris and safeguarded them until they could be returned to you.

I am so pleased to see the Right Honorable David Mundell and the Right Honorable Frank Mulholland here from Scotland.

I will never forget the kindness and decency of the people of Lockerbie.

When the commission’s report to the president was released in May 1990, I was gratified to hear from many of you that it was all that you had hoped it would be. You told me then that the report was a rallying cry. It became much more than that. It became an agenda for your advocacy.

Just as we were beginning to see some advances in aviation security reforms, our nation was dealt another horrible blow on September 11, 2001. In the days and weeks following that terrorist attack, I heard from many leaders who had turned anew to the findings of the President’s Commission. They told me that they were startled to discover insights and analysis that eerily foreshadowed the events of that day. Our recommendations took on an even greater urgency after 9/11 and you remained vigilant in your efforts to seek justice and advance reforms.

Twenty-five years ago, our nation was extremely vulnerable. We were naïve about the threats we faced from forces we did not understand. Just like your loved ones did on that day, we all traveled freely without a second thought that we might be putting ourselves in harm’s way.

Today, we are (sadly) a lot smarter about the threats we face. Aviation security has improved dramatically.

We have a stronger resolve to fight terrorism in all of its ugly forms. Even back then, we said in our report where we called for the need for moral courage and political will, I quote from the report, “Pursuing terrorists and responding swiftly and proportionately to their acts against humanity must become U.S. policy in deed as well as in word. What is required is effective action, not simply strong rhetoric.” We collaborate with other nations in that fight. And our law enforcement, justice, intelligence, and national security agencies collaborate better with one another. I’m especially proud that our nation’s leaders now have a heightened sensitivity toward the victims of terrorist acts and a better understanding of how they should be treated.

We have each of you to thank for keeping these issues at the forefront of our nation’s policy agenda and for fostering real progress over the past 25 years. With humility and gratitude, I would like to close with two words the families of victims of Pan Am 103 have not heard enough. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.