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Brighton school playground memorializes two BC students killed in Lockerbie bombing

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  May 23, 2011 12:56 PM

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(Courtesy: Melissa Beecher, BC Chronicle)

The following is a shortened version of a story by Kathleen Sullivan of the Boston College Office of News and Public Affairs that is scheduled for publication in the Boston College Chronicle's May 26 edition:

Two Boston College students who were killed before they could graduate and realize their dream of becoming teachers were remembered and honored last week at Saint Columbkille Partnership School. On May 19, a playground at the school was dedicated in memory of Patricia Coyle and Karen Noonan, Lynch School of Education students who were returning to the U.S. from a semester abroad when their plane exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988. The bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew members, as well as 11 residents of Lockerbie.

The playground, intended for the school’s youngest students, was made possible by a gift from Boston College alumni Jim and Krisann Miller of Wellesley. Coyle was Krisann Miller’s twin sister. The Millers, Coyle and Noonan were all members of the Class of 1990.

Jim Miller is a member of the board of trustees at St. Columbkille Partnership School and has been a dedicated benefactor of the school, specifically in launching its early childhood program.

Parents Matt and Jan Coyle of Connecticut and Pat and Nancy Noonan of Maryland attended the dedication ceremony, which featured singing by the St. Columbkille students in the early childhood program. Boston College Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, who was president of BC in 1988, offered the invocation.

“We gather to imprint on this simple human space, set aside for the joy and laughter and happy activity of schoolchildren, not only the names, but also the aspirations and the ideals, of two young women, Patricia Coyle and Karen Noonan, who went before us to the Lord at the very zenith of their youthful beauty and their goodness,” said Fr. Monan.

Peter McLaughlin, chair of the board of trustees for St. Columbkille Partnership School, said, “I am pleased and honored that Saint Columbkille is able to commemorate [Coyle and Noonan’s] lives by dedicating our playground to these very special women who loved children and the value of Catholic elementary school education. We expect the playground to be filled with laughter and fun -- a place that Tricia and Karen would have loved.”

In his talk, St. Columbkille Head of School Bill Gartside touched upon the themes of hope and resurrection. He noted that St. Columbkille is a “tremendous success story” and continues to thrive, citing the addition of a third K2 class and expanded 4th grade in the fall. Enrollment too is on the upswing from 304 currently to an expected 320-325 for 2011-12.

Boston College President William P. Leahy, SJ, who led the University into the historic collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston and St. Columbkille parish to revitalize the struggling Catholic school, helped to unveil the plaque displaying Noonan and Coyle’s names. “We dedicate ourselves to continuing the great work of Catholic education,” he said. In reference to the young students attending the ceremony, he added, “You are so much of our future. The future of this neighborhood. The future for our city.”

Coyle and Noonan’s fathers each offered thanks at the ceremony. “It is very special to be here because Karen and Tricia love to teach the little people,” said Pat Noonan. “I want to say thank you to all those who devoted so much effort to this renovation, this playground and to this great school that’s a model for Boston and a model for the nation.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, two doves were released to the cheers of the students. The dove, a symbol of peace, appears in the logo of the school because the name “Colum” means dove. The incessant rain of the week had abated, allowing the children to use the playground immediately following the dedication.

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