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News Maryland Harford County Fallston Joppa

'There's no way I could express how empty life is, really'

Helena Williams went to the cemetery Saturday to lay a wreath on the grave of her son, Army 1st Lt. George "Geordie" Williams, a Joppatowne High School graduate, on the 25th anniversary of his death in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

For Williams, formerly of Joppatowne, the anniversary of her only son's death is always painful.

"All the memories of him and what he went through; you never really get over it, I guess," Williams, who lives in Oak Crest Village in Parkville, said.

Stationed in Bad Kreuznach, West Germany, and on his way home for the holidays to visit his family in Joppatowne, Lt. Williams was killed Dec. 21, 1988, when his plane exploded. A suitcase bomb, eventually traced to Libyan terrorists, had been planted in the plane's baggage

The 243 passengers and 16 crew members on the plane and 11 people on the ground were killed.

A Libyan intelligence officer was tried and convicted, but eventually was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 suffering from terminal prostate cancer. He died in May 2012. In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Minyar al-Gaddafi accepted responsibility for the bombing. Gaddafi was killed in a civil war in 2011.

Lt. Williams was the first of several Harford County residents to be killed at the hands of terrorists and in the war on terror that has followed.

Since Helena Williams moved to Oak Crest a few years ago with her husband, George H. Williams, who died in November 2012, she has been going through lots of items that remind her of her son, their only child.

"There's all kinds of stuff, from his career in the Army, his high school days, all the time he spent at home, just so many memories," Williams, 83, said.

Lt. Williams would be 49, she said. He is buried in The Church of the Resurrection, in Joppatowne, next to his father, a former Marine.

"By now I'm sure he would have been married, probably would have had children of his own," she said. She often thinks about what he missed in life.

Life has been very different for Williams since her son, who was called "Geordie," died.

"It's been very tough," she said. "There's no way I could express how empty life is, really."

"That was the biggest shock of my life. I'll never forget when they called me and told me the plane had gone down. I will never forget that," she continued. "I remember that distinctly. I'll never, ever forget the feeling."

She said she couldn't believe it at first, the shock of hearing over the phone that her son's plane had gone down and there were no survivors.

"When it really hits you, there's no way to express how you feel,"

Williams said she and her husband, who was always very vocal about seeing justice served in his son's death, had just been to see Lt. Williams in Germany that summer.

"I had said we should wait until spring; my husband said let's go now. It's a good thing we did," she said.

When she thinks about Geordie, she remembers what a good boy he was, what a great guy.

"He made us proud," she said.

At the hands of terrorists

Since Lt. Williams death, Harford County has never escaped the shadow of terrorism.

On Oct. 12, 2000, 19-year-old Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, a Churchville resident and graduate of Harford Christian School, was among the 17 sailors killed in a suicide attack against the USS Cole, a Navy destroyer harbored in Yemen.

On Sept. 11, 2001, three Harford residents were among the thousands killed by terrorists:

Joseph Maggitti, of Abingdon, had made a trip to the World Trade Center in New York to attend a monthly meeting at the headquarters of the insurance and investment firm in whose Baltimore office he worked.

Willie Troy, a 51-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War, left his home in Aberdeen and boarded a MARC commuter train at the nearby Aberdeen station for his daily trip to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., where he worked for the Army as a civilian program analyst.

Deborah Jacobs Walsh, a veteran flight attendant onboard United Airlines Flight 93, prepared for take-off from Newark International Airport and a flight to the West Coast. Mrs. Walsh, the wife of a former Harford County resident, Patrick Walsh, had agreed to fill in at the last moment for a co-worker who was unable to make the flight.

On Nov. 2009, Army Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, of Havre de Grace, was one of 12 people shot and more than 30 wounded at Ft. Hood in Texas, by an Army major, who investigators concluded had ties to terrorists in Yemen. He was convicted and sentenced to die earlier this year.

Among those from Harford County who have died fighting the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan include Fallston High School graduate Roland M. Tressler, 29, and Marine Sgt. Michael Wayne Heede Jr., 22, who has family in Edgewood, both killed in July 2009; Pvt. Charles Bennett, 19, of Bel Air, killed in November 2008; Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class David S. Roddy, 32, formerly of Abingdon, killed September 2006; Marine Cpl. Jennifer Marie Parcell, 20, of the Fallston area, killed February 2007; Sgt. 1st Class Neil Armstrong Prince, 35, whose mother lived in Forest Hill and who was killed June 2005; Marine Lance Cpl. Dale A. Burger Jr., 21, of Bel Air, killed November 2004; Army Sgt. Jeffery C. Walker, 33, of Havre de Grace, killed January 2004; and Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Ryan Adle, 21, of the Fallston area, killed June 2003.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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