Remembering Lockerbie, remembering Flora

There are a few key dates when  I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard a particular piece of news. When time stood still. These are key iconic moments we all have when you take a sharp intake of breath, then breathe out, and the world is forever changed, unfortunately not necessarily for the better.

This morning I was listening to Radio 4 “Making a Stand” with Fergal Keane. He was intervewing Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the Lockerbie disaster in December 1988. It was an intelligent interview covering a lot of difficult issues and I listened intently.

I can remember the exact moment in the kitchen when I heard John Lennon had been shot dead.  I can also remember the exact moment I was brushing  my teeth when I heard the news that Princess Diana had died in a car crash. We can all remember where we were when we heard about 9/11 when the world changed because of a terrorist act. Sadly I can also remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news that Flora Swire had been killed in the Lockerbie disaster.

It was December 1988. We had just got married, left London and moved to Worcester and we were decorating our bedroom; I had a roller in my hand and was painting the walls a pastel shade of lavender blue. Very pretty and I was very happy. Radio 4 was on and it must have been the evening. We were working on the house and trying to get it straight for Christmas. The newscaster announced that Pan Am flight 103 had been blown up  and crashed killing all 243 people on board. I heard the name Lockerbie for the first time.  Then he mentioned the names of the British nationals who had been on board, and Flora’s unusual name was read out; I knew it must be her; there could  only be one Flora Swire. I put down my roller, flabbergasted. Flora. How could it be?

I had known Flora as a child growing up in the same village. I had last seen Flora as  a Girl Guide, on stage in a Gang Show playing her guitar and singing along with her beautiful, clear voice. With her face framed with dark curls she was a picture. Any one who heard her singing would have remembered it.

So when Dr Jim Swire referred to his beautiful daughter Flora  on radio this morning, I knew exactly what he was talking about. She was beautiful; and is still fondly remembered by all who knew her. She’d be in her forties now, no doubt married with children. Dr. and Mrs Swire have not only been deprived of a daughter but an awful lot more. I enjoyed hearing how close they were, about her love of Skye, and her cycling all over the island.

Funny, I have a student called Flora on my foundation course at college at the moment. I teach her life drawing. She’s talented too and only the second Flora I’ve ever met. It’s a pretty name, distinctive. And one I’m unlikely to forget.


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