Remarks at the Pan Am Flight 103 Remembrance Service

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Administrator Peter Neffenger
Arlington National Cemetery
Monday, December 21, 2015
As Delivered

Thank you, Melanie, for your kind words and introduction, and thank you to the families and friends of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 for the invitation to be here today. I am the last among my colleagues to speak to you today. It is truly a privilege and an honor to do so, and I am humbled to represent the men and women of the men and women of the Transportation Security Administration.

It is fitting and proper that we pay our respects here every December 21 – that we come together to remember the 270 souls taken from us on this day, now 27 years ago.

It is also fitting and proper that we pay our respects to all of you and to your work over the years.

These hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery are a place where valor rests. But the stone monuments, like the Lockerbie Cairn, are not silent. They speak to us of those who were loved and lost, and they speak to us of resolve, of justice, and of the triumph of good in the face of evil.

This is a place where valor rests, but it is a rest that refreshes our spirits and strengthens all of our resolve.

For 27 years, since the long night of December 21, 1988, you have given us the gift of awe-inspiring courage and compassion.  You have shown your determination to take a day terrible beyond imagination and use it to effect lasting change and bring out the best in all of us. 

This determination began with simple acts of kindness, such as when the people of Lockerbie, themselves victims, carefully washed, dried and ironed all the clothing recovered from the wreckage to present to the relatives of those who had perished.

Your determination continued, as you demanded the truth behind the bombing – as you refused to let this terror attack fade from memory. You educated us all as you demanded justice for your loved ones, and as you demanded the appropriate attention of the world. You have maintained your determination through the years, and through the years you have supported one another.

Your efforts have led to better explosives detection systems and heightened emphases on coordinated and shared intelligence and threat assessments. You helped to create the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), a crucial part of aviation security for more than a quarter of a century. And you have continued to demand answers.

We still grieve.  But you have shown the strength and purpose that can arise from tragedy. 

Those who hate, those who were responsible, those whose monstrous and cowardly act of terror brought down Pan Am 103, did not count on your bravery, your courage and your resilience. They did not count on the incredible ability of the human spirit to heal, and grow, and love – the ultimate victory over hatred and terror.

No one can return what was taken from you that terrible night. But we can do everything in our power to keep it from happening again.  The men and women of the Transportation Security Administration are committed, body and soul, to strengthening aviation security and to protecting you as you travel.

Because of you – we have built strong international partnerships and dramatically increased international aviation security standards.

Because of you – we have greatly expanded our domestic and international counterterrorism programs.

Because of you – we have deployed the world’s most advanced technology.

Because of you – we know that every day we have to evolve faster than the threat.

Because of you – we have rededicated ourselves to this critical mission. 

We have a sacred bond and we owe you our very best.

December 21, 1988, was a dark and difficult night.  Yet since then, every night sky has been ablaze with your light, binding up our wounds, preserving the memories of those lost, and ensuring that we never forget.

Thank you all.