A shocked breath, a hope that we’ve misheard or misunderstood the news, a sense of “it’s only by the grace of God, each of us” — it’s impossible not to feel orphaned in some way by the Creeslough Catastrophe.
The artistry of its tragedy lies in the way it portrays a sudden loss in a familiar setting. The explosion could have happened anywhere in Ireland and almost anyone could have been affected.
There are gas stations across the country, they are intertwined with our communities. People stream in and out every day – not necessarily to fill up, but to use the ATM, stock up on milk or bread, treat themselves to a chocolate bar.
This reminder of the random nature of life and death adds to the cruelty of the Creeslough disaster. We can all feel such a blow, although most of us are blessed enough to have escaped it.
Yesterday morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, my thoughts leapt to the families who had loved ones snatched away. I realized with a pang that there would be some people who would wake up to the horror of their loss.
Life will never be the same for these families again. That’s the reality. And while none of us have the power to change that, we can acknowledge it. We cannot share their grief, it is theirs – but we can acknowledge it.
Words generally have an impact, but in such a devastating situation they lose their power and a handshake or a hug is all that can be offered
When I see or hear the word explosion, I inevitably think of the Omagh bomb. During the riots there were other bombs, without end, but thinking about the dead and injured in Omagh comes naturally to me because it’s my hometown. Some of us may leave our hometowns, but our hometowns never leave us.
As a result, when the news broke from Creeslough, I thought about the impact this must be having on the local people there. Of course, I thought of the bereaved and the injured, but also those who were familiar with the victims – who went to school with them, worked with them, knew them from the neighborhood. Tragedies of this magnitude affect a community at large.
The grief of families is of course paramount, but there is also deep grief from a community – I saw it in Omagh, Co Tyrone and it’s clear it’s happening again in neighboring County Donegal.
Losses are experienced both by the small, close-knit Creeslough community and by the broader Irish community, which sees all those lives lost as the neighbor’s child.
None of us need to know exactly what individuals, families and the Creeslough community are going through right now to understand how brutal it is for them. We can see ourselves in others – our shared, irreducible humanity. As WH Auden said, “We must love each other or die”.
Words generally have an impact, but in such a devastating situation they lose their power and a handshake or a hug is all that can be offered.
It was heartening to hear DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson express his heartfelt condolences to those affected
Creeslough was devastated by a bolt from the blue. But hopefully – over time – that sense of community that we all notice when we look at the northwest corner of our island can help a little. I know it was used to absorb some of the shock waves in Omagh 24 years ago.
In Creeslough everyone rushed to help with the rescue effort. And it was heartening to hear DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson offer his heartfelt condolences to those affected at his national conference on Saturday.
Relations between his party and the Republic have been strained and delicate for some time, but he had the grace to pause: to say to the people of Creeslough that they were in his prayers and would be in his thoughts in the days to come. Such interventions are important.
He also recognized the efforts of emergency services on both sides of the border. “That’s what makes a good neighbor,” he said.
When terrible things happen, it’s not uncommon to look back at the hours that are approaching and think, what if he or she had taken a different path that day? What if they had left earlier, or stayed home, or gone elsewhere, or decided against buying an ice cream? We pound our brains with what-if questions because we know they don’t change anything and events can’t be undone. Such magical thinking, as Joan Didion called it, is beyond our ability.
We rack our brains trying to understand why something happened, but a tragedy of this kind is impossible to fathom. We invent private rituals to protect ourselves—not walking on the cracks in the sidewalk, or wearing miraculous medals, and so on. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, damage can’t be contained.
The full effect of the grief will not be felt in Creeslough today or tomorrow – there is shock and disbelief at the moment – but in the time ahead. Then hollow families need good neighbors. Judging by the response so far, they will not look in vain for support.
Families are not and should not be forgotten; but neither will the church forget it. It will continue to be taken care of. The community cannot afford to forget because it owes these lost lives respect in the form of remembrance.
This is a debt the living pay to the dead.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/creeslough-the-community-mourns-deeply-i-saw-that-happen-in-my-hometown-of-omagh-its-happening-again-42053139.html Creeslough: The community is in deep mourning – I saw this in my home town of Omagh, it’s happening again