[What follows is the text of an article that appeared yesterday on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle:]
When the bomb went off, it was the deadliest act of terrorism against the United States in history.
The Chronicle’s front page from Dec 22, 1988, covers the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
“A Pan American World Airways jumbo jet carrying 258 passengers and crew members from London to New York crashed in a huge fireball at a village just north of the Scottish border last evening, killing everyone on board and at least 15 people on the ground,” the story read.
Once the bodies were counted, 243 passengers and 16 crew members were dead, along with 11 people on the ground. One hundred and eighty-nine of the dead were American; 43 were British. It was the greatest loss of American life in a terrorist act until Sept 11, 2001.
In the bombing’s immediate aftermath, however, terrorism’s role wasn’t certain.
“The cause of the disaster was not clear, with speculation centering on structural failure or sabotage,” the story read.
“Among the kinds of things that might suddenly cut all power would be a bomb or an explosive decompression caused by a structural weakness.”
It was soon obvious that terrorists were to blame, but the culprit wasn’t identified.
Libya and leader Muammar Gaddafi would accept responsibility in the late 1990s, and a Libyan intelligence officer would be imprisoned for murder in 2001. Questions remain as to whether Gaddafi ordered the attack and who carried it out.