There are no words that can express the sheer horror at what happened in Creeslough, north west Donegal, who was heart and soul ripped out yesterday.
It is a spectacular site, more of a small village than a town where modern small businesses have sprung up over the years, nestled in the beautiful moorland landscape of cattle and heather, framed by the flat white-tipped silhouette of Muckish in winter.
It never lost the sense of community. For years our childhood holidays took us there and to the surrounding areas of Dunfanaghy and Downings, paddling in the icy waters of Sheephaven Bay and then drinking football specials at a local pub.
Simple but beautiful vacations in ordinary towns with wonderfully friendly people. Donegal has an ease where time is relaxed and people are at ease with neighbors and visitors alike. Perhaps it is because there are many small communities that have experienced the brunt of emigration to Scotland in job-poor places that these have left cemented bonds of friendship and care for one another as if they were their own.
All of that makes what happened yesterday in Creeslough so terrible. A small, ordinary town on an ordinary day, with people going about their business in the clear autumn sun, collecting pensions and kids from school and hanging up laundry and doing their lottery and shopping for dinner and gas and then… uncovering desolation.
Donegal is so peaceful that the noise of the blast was confusing and inappropriate for locals who arrived at the scene to find something they should never see. Whole chunks of wall were torn apart, revealing the everyday lives of the people who lived in the apartments above Lafferty’s gas station. Pictures still hang on the remaining walls. Beds and wardrobes and side cabinets that look like dollhouse furniture. Cars crumpled like accordions under piles of debris and shredded metal. Images so shocking that it is impossible for a community and those who love them to take them in.
The helplessness of those in the immediate vicinity who searched the rubble before emergency services arrived and who gathered throughout the city throughout the night is palpable to those of us watching on social media or as the death toll mounts the news. No words can convey the sorrow of a nation that understands the loss felt in a rural town is incalculable. That those who helped were not just neighbors but desperate friends. That in a town of 400 people, everyone knows everyone and few remain untouched.
The community has already taken action and found practical ways to help, do and be. bulk to provide comfort. Scoil Mhuire opened its doors to allow people to gather while they waited for worse news. Neighbors cooked food for rescue workers and journalists, and thanked those who had traveled to stand helplessly at cordons, where there was little they could do but show sympathy.
The whole country is captivated by Creeslough precisely because they understand the magnitude of what is unfolding and the grief of the families of those who have died; rippling through the city, county and country. The transmission of pain and sorrow is tenfold as we all feel the fragility of life and how it is all the more upsetting when it is taken from people in extraordinary circumstances while going about their normal business.
For now, all we can do is wait, pray, and offer condolences, help, and thoughts as the city comes to terms with the magnitude of the tragedy and recovers its dead. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/comment/creeslough-those-searching-amid-the-explosion-were-not-just-neighbours-but-frantic-friends-42050739.html Mairia Cahill – Creeslough: Those searching amid the blast were not just neighbors but desperate friends