A Legacy of Life, Learning and Love: A Tribute to Colleen and Lynne

Imani Gary ’15 wasn’t born when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killing the 259 passengers aboard and 11 people on the ground. She didn’t know the two SUNY Oswego students who perished in the bombing: Colleen Brunner ’90 and Lynne Hartunian ’89. Yet, Gary said her life has been profoundly affected by them.

Remembering the victims of Pan Am Flight 103As the 2013 recipient of the Colleen Brunner Memorial Scholarship, Gary received $1,800 to support a fall semester in London—where Colleen and Lynne studied 25 years ago.

“Taking class and living in London have been quite the experience,” says Gary, an English and creative writing major. “I’ve learned so much about the country and myself. Traveling abroad has changed me for the better.”

That was the sentiment Colleen and Lynne—two vibrant, curious, effervescent and beloved friends—shared about their fall 1989 travel abroad experiences.

“They were really enjoying their lives,” says Janette Hausler ’89, who roomed with Lynne in London and backpacked around Europe with Colleen, Lynne and Kristin Usaitis ’89 until Colleen and Lynne left for home
on Dec. 21.

“They were experiencing new cultures, traveling and soaking in all that the study abroad program offered,” Hausler says. “I hope that their legacy will inspire people to have a global mindset.”

Since her friends’ deaths, Hausler says she has traveled almost with a vengeance, visiting every continent but Antarctica.

“It propelled me to travel, and to live my life to the fullest,” she says.

Picking Up The Pieces

Red socks, a dime, Mr. Potato Head, London’s Bryanston Square, the Alpha Sigma Chi sorority house, the memorial plaque on campus or the one at Penfield Library—each triggers memories of Colleen and Lynne for those who knew and loved them.

“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years,” says Patti Brunner Collins, Colleen’s sister. “I want people to remember her amazing smile, her love of life and her incredible personality.”

Lynne’s mother, Joanne Hartunian, says the 25 years since her daughter’s death haven’t eased her pain, nor diminished the vibrant memories—that final goodbye after a visit in London, as she and her husband bid farewell to their daughter, who stood in the rain waving beneath her floppy hat.

But, like others whose lives were touched by the two women, she has worked to find meaning from the death of her child.

“The victims group lobbied for changes at airports and made people more aware of terrorism,” Hartunian says. “Today, we live in an age of terrorism, but back then, no one knew much about it.”

Throughout the years, the act of remembering Colleen and Lynne has brought together classmates, family and friends, and united them in a
closer bond.

“She lives on in the memories of the many people she touched,” Hartunian says.

“There’s a pact among all of us,” says Kristin Usaitis ’89, who roomed with Colleen in London. “When we see each other or the little things that remind us of them, we can snap back in time.”

The Pieces Take New Shape

Colleen and Lynne’s spirit will forever live on in the Oswego family through their friends, classmates, families and the scholars who have embraced education as they did.

A scholarship in Lynne’s name at Niskayuna High School has sent 25 graduating seniors to a SUNY school, including three to Oswego. Colleen’s scholarship has enabled 38 Oswego students to travel abroad, including Tess Bierl ’13 who lived across the street from Colleen’s sister, Patti, in Hamburg, N.Y.

“I was drawing Eiffel Towers in elementary school with hopes to someday travel to Paris, and this scholarship helped me immensely,” says Bierl, a biology major who studied French language at La Sorbonne. “It was the highlight of college and is one of my greatest memories. The scholarship is a marvelous gift from the Brunner Family, and I am forever thankful.”

Family and friends said the young women’s lives, while too short, were lived to the fullest.

“You can honor their memory by remembering that we’re only here for whatever time is allowed us,” Mrs. Hartunian says. “Make the most of it.”

—Margaret Spillett

 

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