Collection inventory

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Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc. Collection

An inventory of the collection at the Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Air Disaster Archives at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: Halsey Van Allen and Vanessa L. St.Oegger-Menn
Date: February 2015

Historical Note

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 departed Heathrow Airport in London for New York City's JFK Airport. One half hour later at 7:02 pm London time, the plane was destroyed by a terrorist bomb and plummeted to earth just north of the England-Scotland border. All 259 individuals on board Flight 103 and 11 residents of the town of Lockerbie, Scotland were killed. Among those killed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 were 35 students returning home from a semester of study abroad through Syracuse University.

Evidence led to charges against two Libyan intelligence agents: Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah. They were indicted by the United States in 1991, formally charged by the Scottish authorities in 1999, and tried by an international court at Camp Zeist, Netherlands beginning in 2000. Al-Megrahi's conviction was handed down in 2001. Fhimah was found not guilty. Al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds in 2009, after a terminal cancer diagnosis gave him three months to live. He died three years later. The investigation of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 remains open.

Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc. (VPAF 103, Inc.) is a nonprofit organization founded by loved ones of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103. VPAF 103, Inc. is dedicated to preserving the memory of those lost, discovering the truth behind the bombing, improving airline safety, educating the public about terrorism, and supporting victims' families.

VPAF 103, Inc. is the largest families' group associated with the disaster. It was formed in the early days of 1989 by grieving family members, with committees quickly forming to address the group's various concerns. These committees reveal VPAF 103, Inc.'s main focuses: emotional support, political action, terrorism watch, aviation security, and discovering the truth behind the bombing. These committees and their results started small and quickly grew. From letter writing campaigns to meetings with United States presidents and other federal offices, VPAF 103, Inc. has had an immense impact on aviation security legislation and counterterrorism efforts and continues to be a powerful lobbying force at the national level. VPAF 103, Inc. was one of the founding members in 1989 of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), which currently oversees the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). VPAF 103, Inc. has a permanent spot on ASAC that is filled by members on a rotating basis.

TruthQuest, VPAF 103, Inc.'s newsletter, began as a one- to two-page publication compiled to keep members aware of the group's activities and new information, and to provide details about meetings and collective actions. As subscriber numbers grew so did the size and scope of the newsletter. It began to include articles written by VPAF 103, Inc. members or found in local and national newspapers, member updates, and written remembrances of those killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. During VPAF 103, Inc.'s most active period through the 1990s, TruthQuest published up to eight issues a year.

Among VPAF 103, Inc. and its members' accomplishments is the construction of the Lockerbie Memorial Cairn at Arlington National Cemetery. The Lockerbie Memorial Cairn commemorates the loss of 270 lives in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and is a gift of the people of Scotland to the people of the United States, financed entirely through private donations. VPAF 103, Inc., and namely its Cairn committee, was instrumental in fundraising as well as securing the right for the Cairn to be constructed. Senate Joint Resolution 129, which designated Arlington National Cemetery as the site of the Memorial Cairn, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in November 1993. The groundbreaking ceremony was held December 21, 1993, the fifth anniversary of the disaster, and the Cairn was dedicated on November 3, 1995. VPAF 103, Inc. is responsible for the care and upkeep of the Cairn and hosts an annual December 21 memorial service held at Arlington National Cemetery. VPAF 103, Inc. is also responsible for the creation of the Legacy Award, a scholarship for students pursuing advanced degrees in areas related to improving national security or terrorism prevention. The award names a legacy fellow and a legacy scholar every year.

Scope and Content Note

The Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc. Collection contains records, memorabilia, serials, and correspondence that document the history of the organization and its impact on public policy and preserving the memory of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103. The collection is divided into six series:

The Committees series holds the correspondence, reports, meeting information, and papers documenting the general activities of many of the committees that comprise or comprised VPAF 103, Inc. These materials include programs, photographs, and papers related to the construction and lobbying for the Lockerbie Memorial Cairn at Arlington Cemetery; the activities of the political action committee, namely through letter writing campaigns; and meeting reports, policy recommendations, and correspondence related to the Transportation Security Administration-Aviation Security Advisory Committee/Federal Aviation Administration (TSA-ASAC/FAA) committee's efforts to improve airport and aviation security. Please note, membership and committee lists containing personal information are restricted for 50 years from the date of creation.

The Correspondence subject files series comprises varied topics united by theme. The series contains correspondence between individual members, government offices, other victims' groups, and other topics. It also contains subsections on the Camp Zeist trial in the Netherlands, the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST), and foreign affairs related to Libya and the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. Additionally, the series contains programs, photographs, and papers related to the memorial sites that have been erected and the memorial services that have occurred since 1989. Other areas of note are the speeches, congressional testimonies, press releases, and open letters that represent VPAF 103, Inc. members' persuasive writing and lobbying power, as well as the multipronged approach they used to disseminate their message.

The Media series contains floppy disks, audiocassette tapes, compact discs, and DVDs. Included are audio recordings of meetings, videos and photographs of memorials, and documentary films on the bombing and its victims on DVD. Additionally the floppy disk files include digital versions of press releases, email and news downloads, research on Libyan foreign affairs, and documentation related to the different Pan Am Flight 103 trials. Please note, meeting recordings are restricted for 30 years from the point of creation.

The Memorabilia series includes items created by VPAF 103, Inc. members and items commemorative of their history. The stickers and buttons date to the earliest days of the organization, and were distributed from a member's home. These stickers would also be placed on official correspondence. In addition, there is a snow globe commemorating the tenth anniversary of the bombing and Camp Zeist pins.

The Organizational records series contains records related to the internal functions of the organization. These include committee and officer reports, meeting minutes, and founding records like by-laws and incorporation records. Also included are minutes, agendas, and summary reports for meetings VPAF 103, Inc. members had with government officials. Please note, meeting minutes and transcripts are restricted for 30 years from the date of creation. Membership, committee, and mailing lists containing personal information are restricted for 50 years from the date of creation.

The Publications series contains issues of TruthQuest from its first publication to present issues, as well as the supplemental bulletins that were occasionally sent between official issues of the newsletter. Please note, issues of TruthQuest are restricted for one year from the date of publication.

Alternative Formats

Selected materials from this collection are available digitally. Please contact the archivist for further information on accessing the materials.


Access Restrictions:

Meeting minutes and meeting recordings are restricted for 30 years from the point of creation.

Membership and mailing lists with personal information are restricted for 50 years from the point of creation; this includes committee lists with personal information.

Issues of TruthQuest are embargoed for one year from date of publication.

Access to media items requires advance notice to produce a use copy.

The collection is partially housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from the Pan Am Flight 103 Archives and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Stone samples of the Memorial Cairn were removed and placed in the Memorial Cairn at Arlington National Cemetery Records. Various personal materials were removed and placed in individual Pan Am 103 victims' collections.

The Pan Am Flight 103 Archives contains additional materials and information related to the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc. Collection. Related collections include:

Pan Am Flight 103 Audiovisual Collection

Families of Pan Am 103/Lockerbie Collection

Tom Foster Papers

On Eagles' Wings Collection

Memorial Cairn at Arlington National Cemetery Records

Victims and Families Collections

Selected Search Terms


Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.
Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc.

Associated Titles



Pan Am Flight 103 Bombing Incident, 1988.
Political action committees.
Political letter writing.
Public interest groups.
Public interest lobbying.
State-sponsored terrorism.
Terrorism -- History -- 20th century.
Transportation -- Security measures -- United States.
War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.
Lockerbie (Scotland)

Types of Material

Bumper stickers.
Business cards.
Buttons (information artifacts)
Compact discs.
Design drawings.
Floppy disks.
Legal correspondence.
News bulletins.
Newspaper clippings.
Pins (jewelry)
Press releases.
Programs (documents)
Serials (publications)
Snow globes.
Speeches (documents)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc. Collection,
Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Air Disaster Archives
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of VPAF 103, Inc. and its members between 2001 and 2022.

Processing Information

Materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes. The snow globe was placed in a box with archival padding.


Materials are arranged alphabetically.

Table of Contents


Correspondence subject files



Organizational records