LOCKERBIE, SCOTLAND — It is the eve of Karen Hunt's greatest adventure. The Syracuse University co-ed, studying journalism, is about to spend a semester abroad in London. She is spending her last night at home in Rochester with her sister, Robin.
“She very much cared about her younger sister. Was kind of like, as most big sisters, kind of was like her protective blanket,” said Robert and Peggy Hunt, parents of Pan Am 103 victim.
The plan was for Karen to be abroad until the Christmas holiday. She would be coming home December 21.
Jeanine Boulanger would spend the day preparing for a homecoming for another Syracuse student; her daughter, Nicole.
“It was probably the Christmas that I was most organized,” said Boulanger.
“I mean, the house was clean. All the gifts were wrapped. All the shopping had been done. I had done a lot of the cooking, and so that we could just lay back and find every detail out that had happened during that ensuing semester," said Boulanger.
Jeanine's daughter, Nicole, was a shy girl who had blossomed in her quest for a future in theater.
“She said, 'You know, people have all kinds of troubles in life. Have all kinds of challenges. So I think, if people come to the theater and I'm performing, hopefully, two or three hours of a given day, all their troubles will no longer be in the forefront,'” said Boulanger, recalling her daughter's words.
One of Nicole Boulanger's friends and classmates was Theodora Cohen.
“It was the fourth grade. She got the lead in Hansel and Gretel, the fourth grade play, and, actually, after that, she never looked back,” said Daniel and Susan Cohen, Theodora's parents.
“She memorized the lines of all the kids. So she not only knew her role, she knew everybody's role in it. And that's when we realized this is what was going to happen,” said Susan Cohen.
Theo too had decided to take part in Syracuse University's London program.
Paul Hudson, an Albany attorney, had sent his 16-year-old daughter off to school in England as part of a student exchange program. His wife would pay a visit to Melina at mid-semester, and she would send a thank you back to her father, at home.
“Thanks for everything. Thanks so much for sending me here, and for my school and everything,” said Melina Hudson.
Peggy Hunt wasn't sure if she really wanted to intrude on her daughter's time abroad, but Karen soon let her know that she wanted her to make the trip to London.
"There was one evening; we were getting ready for bed. All settled in. And Karen had explained to me that a lot of her friends had problems with the parents. She said, 'We're really very lucky, Mom, that we have such a close relationship.' And, I thought to myself, very lucky,” said Peggy Hunt.
Paula Alderman and Glenn Bouckley considered themselves lucky as well. The two had lived an ocean apart, but shared a passion for the music of the group, Queen. They had become pen pals, and soon after, man and wife.
“They met for the first time and just clicked. Fell in love and that was it,” said Martha Boyer.
The young couple lived, for a time, in Glenn's hometown of Sowerby Bridge. By 1988, they were ready to try life in Paula's hometown of Syracuse. They presided over that year's Thanksgiving feast. Before the Alderman clan gathered again, for Christmas, Glenn and Paula had a brief trip planned, back to England.
“Glenn was going to reciprocate and be the best man at his younger brother's wedding. Christopher,” said Martha Boyer, sister of a Pan Am 103 victim.
December 21 had arrived. Theo Cohen and Nicole Boulanger had made their final calls home before the trek to Heathrow Airport.
Melina Hudson's parents were still a bit surprised that she would be coming home the 21st. That wasn't the plan. But she was now booked on a flight for the 21st.
“When my wife, Eleanor, went over, she actually bought the ticket for her return and had it put in a school safe for the 23rd of December. However, somehow it got changed, I think, by the school, but we're not sure exactly what happened,” said Paul Hudson.
Glenn and Paula Bouckley almost passed on their plan to return on the 21st, but Glenn finally decided he could not be late returning to his new job.
“He took whatever he did seriously. He wouldn't want to jeopardize his job. He loved it there,” said Martha Boyer.
The two had spent the days after their family wedding touring the Edinburgh area in Scotland, then making a mad dash back to London to make their flight, with little time to stop or take notice of the small towns along the way.
Karen Hunt had packed for the journey. She made her final journal entry. It was a quote from Theodore Roethke: “I feel my fate in things I cannot fear. I learn by going where I have to go.”
There was nothing special about December 21, 1988. No clock ticking toward a tragedy. Some people were excited about a trip home for the holidays. Some, here in Lockerbie, were just going about a normal day. Two hundred seventy people who began December 21 as a day like any other, not knowing that it would be their last.