New Jersey Senate,
Franklin Lakes, NJ, August 31, 1990.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas E. Dater,
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dater: Two years ago, four days before Christmas, we lost Gretchen Dater forever.
She perished, along with hundreds of others, in the tragic crash of Pan Am Flight 103.
Gretchen is from Ramsey, a town in my legislative district. Her parents Tom and Joan have become my friends. Gretchen's loss touched me personally. I'll be left to wonder forever how things might have been different had this artistically-gifted and life-loving young woman not, on December 21, 1988, stepped aboard a plane whose cargo held a ticking bomb.
I can't help but think, too, that Gretchen boarded Flight 103 secure in the fact that everything humanly possible had been done to insure her safety. She was trusting. But, tragically, she was wrong. We have since learned that measures undertaken to protect Gretchen were lax. Both the airline security system and those who operate and oversee it proved imperfect.
Well, we have come to expect imperfection from government, haven't we? We have grown used to mistakes.
If we did not know it before Flight 103 crashed in Lockerby, Scotland, we know now that when it comes to protecting the life of a young college junior named Gretchen Dater, nothing less than perfect will do.
I'm amazed at how often in the course of debating taxes and budgets, we lose sight of government's first and most important duty; protect the life and welfare of our citizens. We can be nothing less than earnest in living up to that responsibility. We must--simply must--strive for perfection.
I wanted to express for myself, and on behalf of hundreds of my constituents who knew and loved Gretchen, support for the Aviation Security Improvmeent Act of 1990 now being considered before the Congress.
It is, if not perfect, a reaffirmation of government's priority: No effort is too great when it comes to protecting our citizens. I urge the Congress, in its deliberation of this measure, to demand nothing less than the best efforts from the Department of State, the FBI and FAA and all other agencies and air carriers involved in the constant vigil over airport security.
It is my hope, shared by many of my colleagues in the New Jersey State Senate, as well as by many New Jerseyans, that the Congress act to improve airline security today and make enduring improvements so that we will never again suffer the pain caused by the Flight 103 crash.
I am no expert in airline security. I do not know my way around the federal bureaucracy. And the internal workings of Congress remain to me, as to so many Americans, a mystery. But I would suggest that Members of Congress pay careful attention to the recommendations of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism and, wherever possible, incorporate those recommendations into its final aviation security plan.
I ask you to look at the airline security problem through the eyes of Joan Dater, Gretchen's mother. What you will see, when you are able to shake away the anguish that seems never to go away, is the need to know that another Gretchen from Florida, or Michigan or California will board a plane for home, now, or in the years to come, and make it home safely into the arms of her mother.
Respectfully submitted on this date,
New Jersey State Senator.