by Suse Lowenstein

When on Dec. 21, 1988, my firstborn son, Alexander, age 21, was brutally murdered aboard Pan Am 103 in the stormy night skies over the Scottish village of Lockerbie, my own life, my husband Peter’s and our younger son Lucas’ fundamentally changed.

I was 44 years old, and it was at this point that my most meaningful life’s work began. I was a sculptor for many years, but this began a whole new phase in my creative life.

The first weeks and month after Alexander’s death were as awful as any experience in life can possibly be. The realization that he was murdered, then the horrific circumstances of his death itself, the absolute finality of never being with him again, was truly more then any parent should ever live through.

I remember sleeping a lot because in sleep Alex was not dead. But waking up was painful; the realization of what happened would creep back into my conscience.

I am a recovering alcoholic, and I would have loved nothing better then to drink myself to death, but just the contemplation of such action would bring back the memory of how proud Alex was of my sobriety. I felt that I could not let him down, even though he was dead.

What I did instead was go to my studio every day to sculpt the way I felt: myself at the moment of receiving that awful, awful phone call, myself raging, begging, screaming. Somehow I felt that the work kept me close to the tragedy. It forced me to embrace and work with what had happened. This was how my monumental work called "Dark Elegy" started.

eInitially I portrayed myself — not only at that moment of hearing the heartbreaking news, but also in other positions of grief, rage and hopelessness. Soon other mothers and widows asked to participate, each one having lost loved ones on this fateful flight.

There are now 76 larger-than-life-size pieces in this sculpture, each portraying a mother or a wife at the very moment when she first heard the awful news of the death of her loved one by a terrorist act.

The work took 15 years to complete, and my hope is that it will stand as a reminder of how fragile we are, how easily we can loose those we love the most. The sculpture also stands as a reminder of what hate leaves in its wake, and my hope is that people will be more accepting of one another’s differences and learn to love a little more.

My dream is to donate "Dark Elegy" to the public. I would love to find a place to which all people from all nations have access. It needs no language. It has no borders and is non-political. This sculpture is understood by all who view it.

Suse Lowenstein is an artist in New York. Her website, which includes many images of "Dark Elegy," is DarkElegy103.com.

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  • K. November 30, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    The ability to move beyond your own devastating personal grief and to understand it as a public grief — and to try to confront it as such — is remarkable. The variety of expression in the piece — the diversity — is what makes it moving. This work deserves a great home.

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  • L.B. November 30, 2006 at 11:02 am

    There must be a place and the funds available for the permanent display of this important work of art, or at least an opportunity for it to be seen for a period of time by a large number of peoople.
    We are here to witness.

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