A mother memorializes her only daughter, who died in the Pan Am Flight 103 terrorist attack over Lockerbie, Scotland.
On December 21, 1988, a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103, 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Libyan-ordered terrorist attack killed all 243 passengers, the 16-member crew and 11 people on the ground. Mild’s 20-year-old daughter, Miriam Luby Wolfe, a gifted performer, writer and scholar, was on board that day. The Syracuse University student was returning home after spending a semester in London. Miriam’s premature death left the author childless, grief-stricken and angry, and Pan Am officials’ callous handling of the situation only compounded the horror. To cope with her loss and retain an emotional, if not physical, closeness, Mild immersed herself in Miriam’s personal effects. She participated in memorial services and later joined with other Pan Am 103 families in spearheading the Federal Aviation Security Improvement Act, which became law in November 1990. In 1999 she published Miriam’s Gift: A Mother’s Blessings—Then and Now, which “thus began what turned out to be my quest to immortalize my daughter.” Retitled, this memoir is an abridged edition of the 1999 publication. Portions of Mild’s book are dedicated to describing the events leading up to the bombing, what happened that day, the subsequent investigations and trials. These sections are illuminating and surprisingly objective. As a whole, they neatly summarize a decade of complicated legalities and the machinations of international politics. The majority of the text, however, focuses on the author’s intimate memories of her daughter, some of which are reconstructed as informative, if not mundane, dialogue. Reprints of Miriam’s school essays, poems, diary entries and letters complement these recollections. While punctuating the shameful loss of a bright, articulate and productive girl, these writings aren’t necessary to tell the story. Instead, their inclusion seems a vehicle for the parent intent on preserving every scrap of a loved one’s life, regardless of its use to others. In her introduction, Mild explains how she wrestled with the idea of reproducing another book about Miriam. She suggests that most of her friends voted against it, as the work had already been done. Thus her persistence, while understandable, seems somewhat self-indulgent. Readers, though sympathetic, may not appreciate this unsolicited addition to the author’s mourning continuum.
A pained rehashing of a mother’s loss.