Police and investigators look at what remains of the flight deck of Pan Am 103 on a field in Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 22, 1988.
For 45 years, Carol King-Eckersley kept a promise not to look for the baby boy she had given up for adoption when she was just a teenager, but that changed when her husband died last year and she decided to track down her son.
She knew his name and birth date, and she easily found a reference to him on the Internet — her excitement soon turning to horror as she realized she was on a page for victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
"So it became a kind of double tragedy," King-Eckersley, 65, told a BBC documentary. "I found him and lost him on the same day."
The Oregon widow was the 19-year-old daughter of a school principal when she became pregnant and felt pressured to give up her baby.
The only time she ever saw the infant who would become Kenneth Bissett was the day he was in the car of the attorney who arranged the adoption, as she left a New York City hospital.
"There was this little bundle wrapped up in the front seat and all I could think, all the way from Queens in New York to mid-Manhattan, was 'please don't cry'," she told the BBC.
"I knew that if he cried I would not be able to do it. I never held him but now I get to grieve for him."
She had promised not to contact him or meddle in his life, and she stuck to that until last April, when she made the shocking discovery that he had been dead for almost 25 years.
Bissett was a 21-year-old Cornell University junior enrolled in Syracuse University's study-abroad program in London when he boarded Flight 103 to New York on Dec. 21, 1988.
A terrorist bomb ripped apart the plane, killing everyone on board.
"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,'" King-Eckersley said. "When I saw that on my computer it was like somebody had turned out a light because that hope was gone."
"I'm still in the semi-numb part after you lose a loved one," she added. "Even though I didn't have him with me physically, he was always in my heart. I thought of him pretty much every day."
Bissett's adoptive parents had already died, and when Syracuse held a 25th anniversary remembrance for its slain students in October, King-Eckersley attended.
"It was such an amazing feeling for me to be included and feel like Ken and the other kids were guiding the whole thing in some way," she said in the documentary.
First published December 15 2013, 7:54 PM