Friday, December 20, 2013

Solstice: Remembering Liz Marek and the Lockerbie Bombing 25 years later

Rebel Girl is a party girl and even though she does not ascribe to any particular faith, she enjoys this season of celebration with its stories of miracles and lights, pilgrimages and stars shining bright.  She likes the solstice best and feels a sense of accomplishment on living through that day, the shortest one of the year.  When she was a child learning of such things in a public elementary school classroom, Rebel Girl once imagined she could hear the gentle crack of the earth's axis as it tilted, once more, back toward the sun, toward light.

The past 25 years have usually found Rebel Girl and her family hurtling south to Mexico on the Solstice.  This year, they will be a little late. But every year on the Solstice, they remember that first year they drove south for the season: 1988. She first wrote about on the blog five years ago.

from December 22, 2008
It was 20 Years Ago Today:

Twenty years ago, Rebel Girl and Red Emma first headed south into Baja, borrowing a friend's car and another friend's travel guide (what friends!). They fell in love with a part of Mexico that many find unlovable (the desert! The Sea of Cortez!) and have returned every year except for this one. This year finds them at home, unnerved by the brutal violence along the border, unwilling to be Americans who drive past other people's tragedies on their way to their own good time.

They usually leave on Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Rebel Girl can't remember if that was true for that first trip twenty years ago. She expects it might be. All she knows is that when they left, they knew about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

So they left on or shortly after December 21, 1988 and returned sometime after the new year, covered in dust and sunburnt. They hadn't followed the news very much, hadn't thought about the bombing except in the way that you do about such events, a distant awareness of someone else's heartbreak. So when they returned and found out that Liz Marek, fellow activist and friend had been on board the flight, there was shock. Liz was an activist of some standing in the LA area, a veteran of the so-called Great Peace March across that country and of many Nevada Test Site actions, a charismatic lead singer in a lesbian rock band and general all-round good person. Liz, working for a non-profit housing agency, had been instrumental in helping Red and Reb and their roommates obtain an apartment after their eviction from their home (long story).

Liz had once complimented Rebel Girl on her design of a banner for a Test Site demonstration even though Rebel Girl now understands that Liz was only being kind. Rebel Girl was on her knees painting it in the sanctuary of the Church in Ocean Park (some church!). Liz had stopped by on her way to a meeting. The banner was wincingly raw and earnest and the memory of it still possesses the power to embarrass Rebel Girl: "The Patriarchy Stops Here," it read, with an angry pregnant woman, her womb filled with a mushroom cloud, pushing back at the lettering.

Rebel Girl still remembers how Liz could belt out her band's version of "Devil in a Blue Dress" (she sang it as "Big Dyke in a Blue Dress"). Back then, she admired the courage, humor and vision of activists like Liz – they had fun at the same time they did good works. She wanted to be like them: gutsy, justice-loving good people.

Liz had been sitting in seat 36 C of the Pan Am flight, traveling with a friend, having got cheap seats for a holiday trip to England. She was 30 years old. The obituaries all identified her as an actress and peace activist.

Later, when Liz's memorial was held at the Church in Ocean Park, Rebel Girl couldn't look into the faces of Liz's family, of her mother; their grief was too stark. She concentrated instead on repairing the cake which had suffered some damage in transit. It was white frosting with blue cursive lettering spelling out Liz's name and some other message Rebel Girl can no longer remember, just as she can no longer remember the witty name of Liz's band.

So, while people gave eulogies and sang songs, told stories and wept, Rebel Girl repaired the sky blue letters, rejoining the links, restoring the integrity of the final loops of the lowercase "k." She smoothed the frosting, white as a cloud.


The original post inspired a few comments from other friends of Liz who found it via the web:
Anonymous said...
I was on the great peace march and searched out Liz's name today in memory of her great funny human self. I think [her] band was the Diet Cherry Cokes.

Anonymous said...
I knew Liz on the GPM and deeply appreciated her intelligence, wit and humanity. Thanks for your remembrance of her.

Dear Rebel,
I was at the memorial for Liz at Ocean Park and I visited the Pan Am Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery every year until I left DC in late 1999.

Her family was very kind to me at a time when they were grieving and I'll never forget how gracious they were/are. Especially when I told them about the couple of times I'd be so darned frustrated with knocking on the porta pottie doors and hoping folks would knock back so I could feel the vibration and not accidentally open the door and expose them. When Liz was around and saw me she'd grab my hand and pull me down the line of porta potties and would knock and knock until she found an empty porta potty for me. Her actions saved me a lot of time and she needn't've done it but did because she "got it" that I'm deaf and sometimes a helping hand helps just that much to make one's day a bit brighter. Just for this not so little kindness she's aces in my book.

Just so you know, I was shown kindness by every Marcher while I was on the 9-month walk. This made a huge impact on me. Huge. It still does to this day.

Peace Marcher
Twenty-five years is a long time.

Liz's mother still lives in Brookfield, Connecticut.

Rebel Girl found an article from Tuesday August 29, 1989: "Mother Makes Somber Visit to Lockerbie" which is exactly what its title suggests. The online version of the article features a tiny black and white headshot of Liz; it is not the best photo and the online scan of it fragments it even more but there's something there still in Liz's eyes that Reb likes to see.  Her direct gaze. It's Liz all right. The article appeared in the Connecticut newspaper The Day.

Immediately to the right is another article: "Black, white African leaders meet: Kaunda, de Klerk talk in Zambia" and a larger photo of  de Klerk, Botha (remember him?) and a skeptical Kaunda who is described as "a relentless critic of apartheid."



  1. This remembrance made me look for coverage in today's newspaper. Oddly, there was none.

  2. RG, thanks for sharing with us this heart-felt story. Have a safe trip!


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