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Dedication to Sarah Philipps: Pan Am 103 Lockerbie Bombing Victim

21st Anniversary Dedication to Sarah Philipps

Pan Am 103 Victim: December 21, 1988 – December 21, 2009

Sarah Philipps

Sarah Susannah Buchanan Philipps (August 15, 1968 – December 21, 1988)

Sarah Philipps was brought into the world on August 15, 1968; she was the proud daughter of Elizabeth and Erwin Philipps and younger sister of James “Fritz” and Andrew Philipps. I wrote “Tribute to an Angel: A Dedication to Sarah Philipps” on the 20th Anniversary of the Pan Am 103 Terrorist Bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, a year ago today. Sarah was taken from her family, her friends and the world on December 21, 1988, I feel blessed and fortunate to have known Sarah, spending time with her and her brother Fritz, while I was on a two week holiday in London, England and Dublin, Ireland, visiting my oldest brother Bill Connell who was working abroad in EMC’s London office. Sarah and the Philipps family lived about a mile away from me and the Connells family in Newton, MA; both our families attended F.A. Day Jr. High School and Newton North High School. Sarah was only 20 years old coming home for Christmas from a semester studying abroad with Syracuse University, Sarah was one of 35 Syracuse University students who perished on Pan Am 103. Sarah sat in seat number 21F on the 747; she sat right next to her friend Julianne Kelly who was seated in Seat 21E, Julianne was from Dedham, MA, a neighboring town of Newton and she was also studying abroad with SU.


The last time that I was with Sarah was just a few weeks prior to her death. On November 19, 1988 all of us were at a football came played in Dublin, Ireland. The football game was dubbed the Emerald Isle Classic played between Boston College and West Point. It was a sunny, picture perfect day. Sarah was with her brother Fritz, and several friends who were also studying abroad with SU, one of the SU students that was with Sarah was Julianne Kelly, I say this because of the pictures that I have seen of Julianne afterwards. We were together this day and it was truly a perfect and treasured moment that I will never forget. All of us together, Sarah, Fritz, and Sarah’s other friends from SU who resided at 15 Elgin Crescent in London, along with my brother Bill Connell, and several of my brother Bill’s friends, many whom were co-workers from EMC Corporation.

sarah's Brother Fritz Philipps and Sarah Philipps

James “Fritz” Philipps (left) and Sarah Philipps (Right)

There are several reasons that I write and talk about Sarah, I will mention just two of them. First, to remember Sarah, and the impact that she had on not only my life, but on so many other lives, but let me emphasize to you before going any further, I write and talk about Sarah Philipps not because of how she died, but because of how she lived.

Fritz and Sarah

Fritz (left) and Sarah Philipps (right)

I have a photographic memory, which, for the most part, is truly a gift. As it has been over 21 years since I last saw Sarah, I can vividly see her, I don’t need to close my eyes and sit awhile until I can picture her, it is hard to explain, I just see her. And what I see is what I saw of her back on Saturday, November 19, 1988, I see Sarah in a colorful and beautiful way, I can see Sarah’s angelic smile, complemented by her white teeth, I see her radiant, beautiful face, her amazing eyes, everything thing from what she was wearing, a blue coat, white turtleneck, sweater, blue jeans, to what she was carrying, a back pack neatly snuggled over her shoulders and back, I can hear her pleasant voice and her contagious laugh, I can feel the vibration of her life, she had an extraordinary presence, magnetic personality, she just had this glow about her, inside and outside, to me this light was the spirit in her and it was all around her, like that of an angel, to me, she represented all that was positive and good in the world.

Another reason that I write and talk about Sarah is that I feel compelled to keep Sarah’s memory alive. I came across an article in the USA Today from May 2000 written by David J. Lynch entitled “A mother’s day of sorrow at Lockerbie for Elizabeth Philips.” In this article, Lynch writes that Sarah’s mother said that the tragedy “stole her future from us.” Lynch also writes that “She (Sarah’s mother) doesn’t want her daughter, a vivacious young woman who made friends easily and loved skiing and field hockey, to fade into the past with all the other anonymous victims of all the other forgotten tragedies.”

A personal note to Elizabeth, Ervin, Fritz, Andrew and the rest of the Philipp’s family, the memory of Sarah will never fade into the past; Sarah Susannah Buchanan Philipp’s memory and spirit are eternal. I promise you that Sarah’s life, the tragedy and the cowardly act of terrorism that Sarah was an innocent victim of, will never be forgotten.

Sarah (Far left) and Fritz

Sarah (far left) Fritz (Middle)

You know by now how Sarah has impacted my life; I want to share with you how Sarah has impacted another person’s life who was only a 6 month old infant when Sarah died in the Lockerbie bombing on December 21, 1988. She is a special young woman and her name is Kate Pettitt Callahan; she is currently in her senior year at Syracuse University and is one of 35 Remembrance Scholars that are selected each year in memory of the 35 Syracuse students that died on Pan Am 103. I learned about Kate when I came across a story a couple of weeks ago written by Sean Kirst, columnist for The Post-Standard. The headline of the column “Pan Am 103: racing to keep memory alive.”

The following are excerpts from Sean Kirst, columnist for The Post-Standard:

The idea began forming as Kate Pettitt Callahan quietly sifted through some letters and mementoes stored at Bird Library at Syracuse University. The postcards and photographs offered a glimpse into the life of Sarah Philipps, one of 35 students from SU who died in the bombing of Pan Am 103.

Every year, undergraduate aspirants for 35 remembrance scholarships go through boxes filled with artifacts linked to the students on the plane. Each applicant is asked to write a paper expressing a sense of connection to at least one of the passengers. Callahan was intrigued by Sarah Philipps, a student at the University of Colorado who chose to participate in SU’s London studies program. Callahan noticed that Sarah was an avid skier who also played field hockey and track & field in high school.

“I thought, what do you do when an athlete passes away?” said Callahan, who regularly enters marathons and triathlons. “Wouldn’t a memorial run be a great way to honor her life?”


Before I could finish reading the column two weeks ago on Friday December 4, I said to myself, I need to talk with this young woman, I called up SU’s main number and was given Kate’s email, I sent her an email, and we connected later that day, we spoke for about 30 minutes, and I heard all of what I have just described to you and more. Kate then emailed me the essay that she wrote her junior year that won the hearts and minds of the selection committee. I have published excerpts of Kate’s essay at the conclusion of this article on this day of December 21, 2009, the 21st anniversary of Sarah’s death because I can think of no better way to show how even 21 years later from that tragic day of December 21, 1988 @ 7:03 PM, Sarah’s life impacted the life of Kate Callahan, who was a 6 month old infant at the time of the Pan Am 103 bombing where 270 innocent victims died. Kate Callahan’s essay won her a remembrance scholar in this academic year of 2009-2010. Kate put together a “3.5 for 35 Memorial Run” on Sunday November 8, 2009; there were nearly a 100 runners and walkers that participated. There were 13 volunteers holding up cards and bulletins, each at the 1/10th mile marker of the 3.5 mile run, in honor and to celebrate the lives of Sarah Philipps, as well as the 34 other Pan Am 103 victims from SU, I know that Sarah and her family and many friends would be proud of you Kate, as am I. Thank you, Kate, I enjoyed speaking with you on December 4, and I appreciate you sharing with me your story, and your beautiful essay.

Kate Pettitt Callahan

Syracuse remembrance scholar Kate Pettitt Callahan (SU ‘2010) successfully planned and launched the First Annual “3.5 for 35” in honor of Sarah Phillips, who died in the crash of Pan Am 103. Callahan was photographed at the Wall of Remembrance on campus.


Excerpts from Kate Callahan’s Essay: Pan Am 103 Remembrance Scholar (Sarah Philipps)

“I was born in 1988 and, just as my life was beginning, these 35 Syracuse students lost theirs. At 7:03 p.m. on the tragic winter evening of December 21, Pan Am Flight 103 fell from the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland after a terrorist bomb exploded on the plane. These 35 students studying abroad through Syracuse University were among the 270 men, women, and children who lost their lives that night. I am now a 20 year old, just as many of these students were in 1988, and I stand before you today to help their legacy live on. You may ask why, more than 20 years later, it is important that we remember these students. In a time when terrorism affects not only Americans but people all over the world, we must reflect on the preciousness of life and the valuable lessons that the bombing of Pan Am 103 provided. It was a reminder to the Syracuse University community, the nation, and the world of the sheer power terrorism can have and the importance of protecting innocent lives from acts of terrorism. Syracuse University called for tighter security on flights and notification of credible threats. This tragedy also reminds us of the sheer power of human resilience and compassion. After the tragedy, a close bond formed between Syracuse University and Lockerbie. Every year two students from Lockerbie study at Syracuse as Lockerbie Scholars. One of these scholars, Lauren Flynn, recounted her family’s accounts of Lockerbie’s response to the tragedy and how that fostered the unity between Lockerbie and the Syracuse University Community. The citizens of Lockerbie, while grieving for their own, showed a tremendous amount of caring and support to the families of the Syracuse students that lost their lives that evening. They opened their homes and hearts to Syracuse families when they came to Lockerbie after the tragedy.

Lauren told me about the women of Lockerbie that washed all of the victims’ clothes, collected their belongings, and sent them back to the victims’ families. The two communities have kept the strong bond for the last twenty years and are committed to keeping the memory of those that lost their lives alive. Let the unity of the communities remind us that in a world in which hatred and violence plague people’s lives every day, humans can overcome tragedy and loss with undying compassion for others.

As I explored the materials in the Pan Am 103 archives, I felt the strongest connection to Sarah S.B Philipps. I was first drawn to her because of her athleticism and love for the outdoors. Sarah was a track athlete (just as I was in high school), played field hockey, and loved to ski. Sarah was more fun- loving than competitive just as I committed to track because of my pure love for running and the company of my teammates. I share Sarah’s love for the outdoors and spend time with my brother skiing, hiking, and running just as Sarah did. As I got to know Sarah through the materials in the archives, I felt an even deeper connection to her and found a multitude of things we have in common. She was twenty and a fellow New Englander living just outside of Boston, one of my favorite cities. I’ve also spent my summers mentoring children as Sarah did. She was a day camp counselor and many of her friends remembered how much the children she worked with loved her. I’ve worked the last three summers as a camp counselor and thoroughly enjoyed developing relationships with the children. Another connection I drew was our shared enjoyment of cooking.


The strong connection I felt with Sarah made me deeply consider how precious life is and how someone as young, active, and life-loving as myself could have their life taken so suddenly. It has made me begin to cherish everyday and live my life to the fullest- enjoying the outdoors, reading, cooking delicious food, and most of all my family and friends. If I am selected as a Remembrance Scholar I would organize events that would celebrate Sarah’s life and reflect our shared love for the outdoors, cooking, and children. I would plan a memorial run, “Sarah’s 3.5 for 35”, a 3.5 mile run in memory of Sarah and all 35 Syracuse University students that lost their lives.

Sarah was an English major and loved poetry so the run would include a post race reception that displayed some of Sarah’s works and give Pan Am 103 victims’ families and friends and Syracuse University students a chance to display their writing and art that commemorates the lives of those lost in the Pan Am 103 tragedy. I would also plan a youth day that included writing, sports, and cooking workshops that would bring Syracuse City students to campus. These events would help the memory of Sarah and her brilliant life live on. “

The Excerpt above is from Kate’s Remembrance Scholar Essay Courtesy of 2009-2010 Winning Scholar & Author Kate Pettitt Callahan, Willimtic, CT – Syracuse 2010 (Thank you, Kate! – KGC)

God Bless Sarah Susannah Buchanan Philipps

(August 15, 1968 – December 21, 1988)

You will never be forgotten Sarah, nor will the 34 other victims from SU, the additional 224 passengers and crew, as well as the 11 victims on the ground from Lockerbie, Scotland. Total Victims: 270

Written with Love from My Heart & Soul,

Kevin G. Connell

Sarah Outdoors Prom White Dress and Friend

“Treasure the Moment, Each & Every Moment, Every Single Day of Your Life.”

– Kevin Connell

  • JP

    Conviction coming soon. Hang in there.

  • Kcarlson321

    That was a tremendous tribute to your loved one . kcarlson321@yahoo.com

  • EAHill6

    Dear Phillips family:
    my name is Beth Hill. I am putting together our 25th high school reunion along with Sammy Davis. Sammy is aware of a memorial bench at the Newton Centre playground and has told me that is was in need of refurbishing which we, as a class will come together to raise the funds for that project. Sammy and I were just wondering where you have moved to. It would be nice to keep in touch!
    Beth Hill NNHS ’86
    53 Bridge St.
    Newton, MA. 02458
    617-527-3582

    Sammy Davis NNHS ’86
    204 Adams St.
    Newton, MA. 02458
    617-259-0211

  • melissa hale

    My daughter sarah jane suzNnah is now 7 I love and miss my friend sarah

  • Ambrosia

    God Bless her

  • LVBob

    I uploaded photos of her memorial in Scotland which can be found here: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=175334443