Saturday, September 15, 2001

This seems like a fitting time to talk about Alexia Tsairis. Alexia Tsairis was a Syracuse University student who died when Pan Am 103 exploded in the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, as a result of a terrorist bomb on December 21, 1988. Alexia was 20 when she died. She was a photojournalism student, one of 35 Syracuse University students who died returning from the S.U. Department of International Programs Abroad in London. (This is the same program in which I studied in England in 1999.)

Each year, S.U. offers a Remembrance Scholarship to 35 students who most closely resemble the spirit of the students who were lost in 1988. I had the great honor and privilege to represent Alexia in 2000. I have come to know her family, who have reached out to me with a warmth I can not begin to capture in words.

Alexia was deeply commited to world peace. She was a member of Amnesty International. She wanted to change the world with her photography. At the end of each semester in London, the photo students write record memories, share messages of encouragement, and leave advice for the next class in the lockers in the darkroom. Alexia wrote, two days before she died, "Take your camera with you wherever you go, because you never know what is going to happen." Someone has since written, "S.U. misses you" under her name. Some of Alexia's images and film were recovered from the crash site. She was very, very good.

Her parents have since started the Alexia Foundation for World Peace. They offer scholarships to photography students who wish to study abroad in the London program and grants to professional photographers who wish to pursue picture stories around the world that will help foster world peace.

As we seek answers in this difficult time, I offer you her words as they were printed in the Ramapo High School yearbook her senior year.

"Do not be afraid of the shadows. It only means that light is shining nearby."
-Alexia Tsairis

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