"Should my heart break and the grief pour out, it would flow over the whole earth, it seems, and yet, no one sees it. -- Anton Chekhov
On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, a regularly scheduled flight from London to New York, was destroyed by a bomb that killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew – a disaster known as the Lockerbie bombing. Sections of the aircraft crashed into the small village of Lockerbie in southwestern Scotland, killing eleven people on the ground.
Tragically, a young Delbarton alumnus, John Patrick (JP) Flynn '86, was on board. JP was a Colgate University junior majoring in geography with a minor in economics. He had joined a Syracuse University program for a semester of study in London. Thirty-five Syracuse University students were also killed in the attack.
At Delbarton, J.P. was a standout all-around athlete who captained both the Green Wave tennis and basketball teams and served as quarterback of the football team. By the time he graduated, he had collected 10 varsity letters.
Three decades later, on December 20, 2018, the FBI hosted a ceremony to commemorate the Lockerbie victims at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. Speakers included FBI Director Christopher Wray and Scottish Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo, who unveiled a plaque honoring the victims that will be on permanent display at FBI Headquarters.
JP's brother Brian Flynn '87 attended the service, and so did two classmates, Jack Plaxe '86 and Mike McGarrity '86. McGarrity is currently Acting FBI Assistant Director for National Security and worked on the task force that investigated the bombing. In his remarks at the service, he attributed the death of his Delbarton classmate to reinforcing his ambition to join the FBI (McGarrity's FBI career was recently featured in Delbarton Today).
Other Delbarton attendees included Director of Alumni & Development Craig Paris '82, and a former Flynn family neighbor Bill McFadden '59. Pictured below are, from left, Bill McFadden '59, Brian Flynn '87, Craig Paris '82 and Jack Plaxe '86.
The next day, December 21, 2018, exactly thirty years after the bombing, a second remembrance service took place at Arlington Cemetery honoring the victims. After the bombing, the town of Lockerbie shipped 270 blocks of locally quarried sandstone to America, each block of the distinctive reddish stone representing a life lost in the disaster. Frank Klein, a New Jersey builder whose daughter Patricia died in the bombing, lovingly erected the cairn that now stands in a secluded part of Section 1 in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1993, President Bill Clinton unveiled the Lockerbie Memorial Cairn.
Speakers at the December 21 Arlington ceremony included Johnny Gwynne, Deputy Chief Constable, Scotland Police, Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud and Elaine Chao, US Secretary of Transportation. The names of the 170 Lockerbie bombing victims were read by family members and Syracuse students, and the ceremony concluded with the playing of Taps and a wreath laying.
In 2006, JP was posthumously inducted into the Delbarton School Hall of Honor. Annually in December, the School hosts the JP Flynn '86 Memorial Basketball Tournament that is dedicated in his memory. Delbarton remembers JP Flynn '86 with affection and respect, and continues to mourn the tragic circumstances that ended his brief but brightly lit life.