Miriam Wolfe still touches people, thanks to her mother


When 20-year-old Miriam Wolfe died in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Rosemary Mild first felt horror. Her only child had been taken from her.

Over time, horror was replaced by a bottomless sense of loss, the wearying knowledge that grief would be with her as far into her own future as she could see.

Then came a sense of urgency. Rosemary Mild feared that the world would forget her daughter in a way that would be a second death. She feared that Miriam's memory would grow dim in the hearts of those she touched -- and there were many. And she feared that those who had not known her would now never know her.

So Miriam's mother, a wordsmith by vocation and inclination, set out to bring her daughter to life between the pages of a book. The result, "Miriam's Gift," has now been published. It is more than a reconstruction of a young girl's short life and a celebration of her unfulfilled promise.

It is a careful researching of her daughter's interior life, one that was recorded in journals and diaries Miriam had kept since she was a young girl. And they include entries made just before she took that fateful flight home from a Syracuse University study-abroad program in London.

"I had no idea she was so prolific," says Mild, who lives in Severna Park with her second husband, Larry. Married just 12 years, they were virtual newlyweds in December 1988, when Miriam was killed.

Mild at first felt guilty that she did not know her daughter was such a dedicated journal keeper. "I thought I had been paying attention," she says. Then she was stunned at the depth and maturity of the writing.

"I am so full of admiration for her," says Mild.

The terrorist bomb that destroyed Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was meant to explode over the ocean, casting the evidence over the Atlantic Ocean.

Because it did not, the personal effects of the victims were tenderly collected, cleaned and preserved by the reverent citizens of Lockerbie and returned to the surviving family members.

In the boxes that came to Severna Park, where Miriam had been a talented, energetic member of the theater community, were the sodden, faded journals that revealed so much about Miriam that her mother did not know.

Also arriving in the mail were more than 1,000 cards and letters from three continents, most of them from the people whom Miriam had touched.

"One of them said, 'When Miriam met you, she locked hearts with you,' " Mild says. "If she wanted you to be her friend -- you were!"

Mild, a retired editor who now writes mysteries, began by publishing Miriam's writings posthumously in magazines and newspapers. Essays in Art Times and Dramatics magazines. A short story in Cricket, a magazine for children. A letter to her step-brother on how to get into college in the Washington Post.

Then Rosemary Mild published something under her own byline: "Please Remember My Daughter," an article in McCall's magazine.

Now there is the book, "Miriam's Gift." More than a family memento, more than an expression of a mother's grief, it is an expression of the unbounded optimism of a young girl ready to step onto the world's stage. It is Miriam's gift to the reader.

"The sky was bluer today, the sun was yellower today," reads one of her journal entries just days before her death. "And the whole of the earth seemed to be rejoicing in its own perfection."

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