Helen Engelhardt, a woman widowed in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, publicly read her memoir for the first time Saturday in Jesse Wrench Auditorium.
The reading was in conjunction to Columbia Entertainment Company’s production of "The Women of Lockerbie" by Deborah Brevoort. The show ran Jan. 17 to 20 and 24 to 27. Engelhardt, an activist and storyteller, published “The Longest Night-A Personal History of Pan Am 103” this month.
The memoir is the first personal account of Lockerbie. It centers on the loss of Engelhardt's husband, who was one of 270 killed in the terrorist attack.
“With a mass event of any kind, it’s hard to deal with even the names," Engelhardt said. "Numbers are easier to look at. This is the story about one number that I knew best.”
The intimate reading focused on Engelhardt’s first visit to Lockerbie in August 1989. Her son, Alan, was six years old and joined her on the trip.
Engelhardt visited burial and memorial sites in the village. White gardenia beds blossomed in the Garden of Remembrance in Dryfesdale Cemetery. The garden honors the lives of those whose bodies were never found after the bombing. A granite wall inscribed with the names of those killed in alphabetical order was added to the memorial.
Engelhardt said she placed a plaque beside Tony’s name in June 1990, which reads: “Cherished husband, father and friend. You are still trying to come home.”
Engelhardt travelled to Haldykes Farm, the site where her husband’s body was found.
Engelhardt has since dedicated her life to supporting those who have lost loved ones to similar tragedies. She joined Victims of Pan Am 103, Inc., a proactive lobbying and emotional support organization. She served as a board member, spokesperson to the media and the fourth editor of its publication “Truth Quest” from 1995 to 2001.
Milbre Burch, director of "The Women of Lockerbie," said she believes anonymous killing is the scourge of our time.
“There is more and more tragedy in the world," Burch said. "But the grace with which Helen has lived on, instead of succumbing to the hatred and the heartache … I consider her work an act of grace.”
Columbia resident Frances Welch came to the reading after finishing Engelhardt’s book.
“I came to this reading out of curiosity,” Welch said. “I was very moved by this first-hand account of a woman who lost a loved one in an act of terrorism.”