For Lockerbie families, a sense of justice - and work still undone

Kara Weipz with a photo of her brother, Lockerbie victim Rick Monetti, in 2008. She said, "I never thought this day would happen."
Kara Weipz with a photo of her brother, Lockerbie victim Rick Monetti, in 2008. She said, "I never thought this day would happen." (JONATHAN WILSON / File Photograph)
Posted: October 21, 2011

Kara Weipz cried Thursday at her Mount Laurel home when she saw the news report of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's death.

Once again, she was reminded of her 20-year-old brother, Rick Monetti, who was killed in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland - a 1988 attack later tied to Gadhafi.

"I truly believe [Gadhafi's] suffering and pain will endure forever," said Weipz, 38. "He will always have to answer to someone higher than me and receive punishment for the acts he's committed."

For the New Jersey and Pennsylvania families of the Lockerbie victims, there was a sense of justice Thursday - but no celebration as they listened to details of Gadhafi's demise in his hometown of Surt.

In Pennsylvania, the news made Carole and Glenn Johnson of Greensburg think of their 21-year-old daughter, Beth Ann.

"When I heard what happened, my heart tightened. Gadhafi is dead - and Beth is still dead," said Carole Johnson, 68. "Will our lives change? No. Will the pain go away? No."

There is "some semblance of justice, but it's bittersweet," Johnson said.

"It's a reminder again of lost dreams, lost hopes," she said. "You relive it all over again. Bam! You're back to Dec. 21, 1988. It physically and mentally wipes you out."

Beth Ann Johnson, a Seton Hill College student, was coming home on Pan Am 103 after taking a semester at a London college. Her family had been shopping for Christmas presents for her.

"For quite a while, my thoughts have been that Gadhafi's hell is going to be that he will feel the excruciating pain of all of his victims," Carole Johnson said.

In Cherry Hill, Eileen Monetti, mother of passenger Rick Monetti, said she was "glad Gadhafi is gone. His soul is in God's hands."

Her son, a Syracuse University journalism and science major, was coming home to spend the holidays with family when the plane exploded.

"It's terrific to have" Gadhafi gone, said Eileen Monetti, 65. "It's wonderful for the Libyan people - and the world."

She said she had been concerned that the former dictator might escape justice. "I figured he'd show up after Tripoli went down," she said. "I thought he'd take the coward's way out and stay in southern Libya - and when the time was right - leave the country for Chad."

In Mount Laurel, Weipz, who served as president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, representing hundreds of survivors, said she and others were "all still in shock."

"Someone like Gadhafi - with everything he did - you'd think he's the kind that would never die," she said. "I never thought this day would happen."

"Gadhafi and the members of his regime were behind the bombing," she said. "They were brutal, horrible, evil people."

Weipz said she now would like to see others brought to justice, including Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the deaths of the 270 Pan Am passengers and crew.

The Scottish government released Megrahi from prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds, presuming he had only three months to live due to prostate cancer. He was seen at a rally in support of Gadhafi last summer.

"He needs to pay for the crimes he committed," she said.

Megrahi "is my next interest," said Carole Johnson. "What will happen to him? He was living in a house that by their standards was quite upscale.

"Now, here we are, way past the time when he was supposed to die," she said. "Who's going to keep him in his comfortable lifestyle? Who will pay for his medical bills? Will he spill his guts?"

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), a longtime advocate for the Pan Am victims' families, said: "Now is the time for the Libyans to demonstrate to the U.S. that they are willing to cooperate with the investigation into [the bombing]. . . . I will continue working with the families to reveal the truth."


Contact staff writer Edward Colimore at 856-779-3833 or ecolimore@phillynews.com.

 


 

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