Rose-laying Ceremony brings Remembrance Week to a close

Rose-laying ceremony caps Remembrance Week

After grappling with the discovery of antisemitic materials linked to Pan Am 103 bombing victims, the program pays tribute with its "act forward" mission.
Published: October 17, 2022 | Updated: October 30th, 2022 at 10:21 pm
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A Remembrance Scholar holding a rose on Friday.

On Sunday, Remembrance Week began at Syracuse to honor the lives of 270 people, including 35 Syracuse University students, whose lives were lost in the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy in Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988. 35 current SU seniors represent the 35 Syracuse students who lost their lives onboard.

The annual event began with some controversy when Josh Meyers, one of this year’s scholars, was going through archival materials on the student he was assigned to represent when he found antisemitic letters from the student, his brother, a fellow victim from Pan Am flight 103, to their family. The university released a statement on Oct. 11 addressing the incident.

“One of the things that makes our Remembrance program so impactful is the recognition that the students who perished in the 1988 bombing never had the opportunity to realize their full potential. They were imperfect people, as we all are, who made mistakes. Unfortunately, these students never had the opportunity to learn from their mistakes,” the statement said.

Despite the controversy, the week proceeded with events that included SU and non-SU participants. The week included a Music and Message at Hendricks Chapel, a candlelight ceremony, Sitting in Solidarity, multiple film screenings and a Celebration of Life event filled with various student performances. The week culminated on Friday with the Rose-Laying Ceremony in the Place of Remembrance, located in front of the Hall of Languages.

Rose Laying Ceremy
Dara Drake waiting to speak about the victim she is representing on Friday.
Rose-laying ceremony brings closure
October 21, 2022 5:19 pm

At exactly 2:03 p.m. the Rose-Laying Ceremony began at Syracuse University’s Place of Remembrance. This year, however, was a bit different than previous years. As Remembrance Week concludes following the discovery of antisemitic language and symbols in the archival material of two of the victims, the theme of coming together against hate was even more prevalent this year.

The annual Rose-Laying Ceremony honors the 270 people, including 35 Syracuse students, who were killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988. The ceremony also honors the 2002-03 Lockerbie Scholar Andrew McClune, who died in 2002.

A parent lays a rose at the Syracuse University Remembrance Scholar Rose-Laying Ceremony, closing out a week of events to remember the lives lost in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing
A parent lays a rose at Friday's Remembrance Scholar Rose-Laying Ceremony, closing out a week of events to remember the lives lost in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.

Remembrance Scholars at the ceremony read prepared remarks and laid a rose in the name of each student whose life was taken that day. Many chose to focus on the idea of moving forward in light of the antisemitic material found in the archives. The ceremony was complete with a rabbi and Torah reading to close the event. Parents, alumni and prominent SU figures were in attendance, including Chancellor Kent Syverud and Hendrick’s Chapel Dean Brian Konkol.

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Syracuse students embracing after the Rose-Laying Ceremony on Friday, October 21, 2022.

Immediately following the Rose-Laying Ceremony, Konkol took over at 3 p.m. to host the annual convocation to honor the 2022-23 Remembrance and Lockerbie Scholars in Hendrick’s Chapel. The Rose-Laying Ceremony and Remembrance Scholar Convocation closed out a week of events with the goal of raising campus and community awareness of terrorism and commemorating the victims of the bombing and those who continue their studies here in their names.

essica Hallock (left) and Remembrance Scholar Josh Myers (right) with a emotional performance of John Lennon's famous
Jessica Hallock (left) and Remembrance Scholar Josh Myers (right) with an emotional performance of John Lennon's song "Imagine" on Thursday at the National Veterans Resource Center.
Celebration of Life
October 21, 2022 2:10 pm

This week was the 34th anniversary of the death of 35 Syracuse University students who were killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Since the tragedy, SU has honored their lives with Remembrance Week, a period of observation and events meant to memorialize those lost. While the week is one of mourning, it is also a reminder of how precious life is. This idea laid the foundation of the “Celebration of Life,” an event of Remembrance Week on Thursday at the National Veterans Resource Center.

Brielle Seidel reading a poem written by a victim of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing at the National Veterans Resource Center
Brielle Seidel reading a poem written by a victim of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing at the National Veterans Resource Center in Syracuse, New York.

It was an evening of poetry, art, music and dancing, but more importantly, a night to come together, honor the victims of Pan Am 103 and celebrate life alongside the current scholars and the victims’ families. Remembrance Scholar Josh Myers led through the program. It was a colorful mix of 17 different performances. The acapella group Groovestand started with a “Song About Peace.”

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The Otto Tunes with a powerful performance of "Home (I Am)" by George Kamel. Shot on October 20th at National Veterans Resource Center, Syracuse.

They were followed by various student solo performances with songs by Taylor Swift and Adele, as well as some original songs and poems. Omi Wolfe and Sarah Panos delivered the only dance of the evening with their choreography to Billie Eilish’s “Bellyache.”

Another highlight was the emotional performance of John Lennon’s famous “Imagine” by Josh Myers and Jessica Hallock. The program was closed with the acapella group, The Mandarins, and their interpretation of the traditional South African song “Indodana.” All the art and creativity ensured that the 35 students lost in 1988 were all remembered. And it was, indeed – a celebration of life.

Syracuse University Remembrance Scholars sit for the
Syracuse University Remembrance Scholars sit for the "Sitting in Solidarity" display in front of Hendricks Chapel on SU's campus
"Sitting in solidarity" reminds community of tragic loss on Pan Am 103
October 17, 2022 9:00 pm

The usually loud and busy Syracuse University quad was somber today as the Remembrance Scholars sat in the 35 chairs designated for the students lost in Pan Am Flight 103. The 35 seats, empty all week in front of Hendricks Chapel, are positioned with the same seat numbers and spacing as the original flight. From 1:28 pm. to 2:03 pm, they are placed as a reminder for students, staff, faculty and the community to recognize and remember the loss the university and community faced in 1988.

Flowers rest on seats on the quad during Remembrance Week.

Almost 34 years ago, 270 people died on the flight including 35 SU students that were returning home from study abroad in London. The plane went down in Lockerbie, Scotland.

Monday, students sat in solidarity in the 35 empty seats for 35 minutes. The students sat in silence the entire time, reflecting on the lives of the victims and what it may have been like for them at that moment.  Many hugged, and some cried once the time had finished just as it began to rain.

Remembrance and Lockerbie Scholars stand around the Place of Remembrance for the Candleight Vigil on Sunday, October 16, 2022.(Photo by Julia Virnelli)
Remembrance and Lockerbie Scholars stand around the Place of Remembrance for the Candlelight Vigil on Sunday, October 16, 2022.
Remembrance Week 2022 begins
October 17, 2022 6:00 pm

34 years ago, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed and exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. The explosion led to the death of 270 people, including 35 Syracuse University students. As a result, the university established the Remembrance Scholarship and Remembrance Week to honor the victims and raise awareness about terrorism. This past Sunday evening, community members gathered at the Place of Remembrance for a candlelight vigil to honor all of the lives lost in Pan Am Flight 103 and kick off this year’s Remembrance Week.

Before beginning the ceremony, the scholars recognized the antisemitic behavior that recently surfaced from two of the remembered victims, Eric and Jason Coker. One scholar shared that while the two will not be forgotten, the legacy they left behind has been altered. In a statement made last week, Syracuse University shared that, “Hate in all its forms, including antisemitism, has no place at Syracuse University.”

Candles were placed along the Place of Remembrance, to honor the lives lost in Pan Am Flight 103. (Photo by Julia Virnelli)
The 2022 Remembrance Scholars begin Remembrance Week with a candlelight vigil

Community members watched while the scholars read aloud each victim’s name. Later, a moment of silence was held for the lives lost before each scholar and some community members placed candles along the Place of Remembrance.

Throughout the week, different events will take place to honor the lives lost in Pan Am Flight 103. On Monday, Remembrance and Lockerbie Scholars will sit in the 35 empty chairs on the quad, one for each Syracuse University victim. The week will conclude on Friday, with the Remembrance Scholar Convocation at Hendricks Chapel.

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Ron Ditchek (center), a 2022-23 Remembrance Scholar and member of Otto Tunes and the Hendricks Chapel Choir, sings at Music and Message.
Syracuse kicks off Remembrance Week celebrations with Music and Message
October 17, 2022 6:00 pm

Syracuse University began its Remembrance Week celebrations with Music and Message, a weekly series from Hendricks Chapel that features performances and reflections from individuals across the Syracuse community. Sunday’s reflections came from SU’s Remembrance Scholars, a group of 35 Syracuse seniors who represent the 35 Syracuse students who lost their lives in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Other Remembrance Week events include a candlelight vigil, a documentary screening and a Rose-Laying Ceremony.

Brian Konkol, Dean of Hendricks Chapel, began the ceremony with opening remarks before introducing the Hendricks Chapel choir, who performed “My Life Flows in Endless Song.”

Remembrance Scholars Brielle Seidel and Jared Welch hug after the Sitting in Solidarity Display on October 17, 2022.
Remembrance Scholars Brielle Seidel and Jared Welch hug after the Sitting in Solidarity Display on Monday.

Afterward, Josh Meyers, a 2022-23 Remembrance Scholar, shared his reflections. Meyers said he was the original person who found the antisemitic material in archives of the Coker brothers, both of whom were killed in Pan Am Flight 103. Meyers noted how the material would change the way Remembrance Week is celebrated.

The presentation also included performances from Otto Tunes, SU’s all-male acapella group.

Dara Drake, a 2022-23 Remembrance Scholar, shared with the audience the personal impact of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois — her hometown. Drake talked about the intersection between the shooting and Pan Am Flight 103 and how the scholars attempt to promote a world without terrorism. Diane Benites and Sifan Hunde, two other Remembrance Scholars, also spoke.

Konkol ended the ceremony with a final blessing and a performance of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” by the choir.

Thiry-five chairs, representing the 35 Syracuse students who lost their life in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, are lined up in the Quad corresponding to where each student sat on the plane. (Photo by Cole Bambini | The Newshouse)