Oregon mom learns adopted son was Lockerbie bombing victim

Carol King-Eckersley just learned this year her son was one of the people killed when Pan-Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

By Gabrielle Levy
Oregon mom learns adopted son was Lockerbie bombing victim
Carol King-Eckersley gave up her infant son for adoption at the age of 19. She learned in April he was one of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. (BBC)

The Lockerbie bombing was nearly 25 years ago, but one Oregon woman just learned her son was among the 270 people killed when Pan-Am Flight 103 exploded over Scotland.

Carol King-Eckersley, 65, gave up her newborn son for adoption when she was just 19. From that day until the death of her husband last year, King-Eckersley kept her promise to never search for her son or interfere in his life. But she knew his name, and a grief councilor advised her to seek him out as part of her healing.


A search online turned up Kenneth Bissett's name on a remembrance page for the 35 students who had been studying in London with Syracuse University who were killed on board the plane.

"270 people died in that tragedy and one of those happened to be the only child I ever had. And I didn't even know it until last April," said King-Eckersley. "So it became a kind of double tragedy. I found him and I lost him on the same day."

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Bissett, then a Cornell University student, had been due to fly back to the United States a few days before the bombing, but delayed his return to attend the 21st birthday of a friend. Instead, he boarded Pan-Am Flight 103 from London to New York on Dec. 21, 1988.


As devastating as the discovery has been for King-Eckersley, she said not knowing her son "softened" the pain -- somewhat.

"I'm still in the semi-numb part after you lose a loved one," she said "Even though I didn't have him with me physically he was always in my heart. I thought of him pretty much every day."

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"I'm just starting to get to know him," she said. "In a way I'm going backwards because the getting to know him makes it sharper, makes the regret deeper."

When she got pregnant, 19-year-old Carol King decided to give up the child, not for her own reputation but for her father's, a high school principal. The family feared it would compromise his job if word got out he could not even prevent his own daughter from getting pregnant out of wedlock.

The last time she saw her son was in the car ride from the hospital. She was not able to have more children, but she eventually adopted her husband's son, Ray.

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"There was always the hope and dream that some day there would come a knock at the door and I would open it and there would be this tall handsome gentleman saying, 'Hi, I guess you are my mom,'" she said.


"When I saw that on my computer it was like somebody had turned out a light because that hope was gone."


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