It’s too much to bear. There are no words for this. But even as waves of unrelenting grief have swept through Creeslough, people have stood together here and have come out in the hundreds to show their solidarity and love.
A week ago, as the full extent of the horror of what had happened was dawning, Father John Joe Duffy said people were speechless. In fact, the language seems incapable of conveying a sense of loss, emptiness, or the extent of brokenness.
Speaking at the funeral of 39-year-old Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan this week, Father Duffy said what struck so many people was not the rattle of words being spoken at the scene, but it was the silence.
“A mass silence from people who have gathered to support one another and that has been the history of this community these days,” he said.
On Tuesday night in Glasgow, 60,000 people fell silent before the Champions League game between Celtic, a club whose founding fathers came from Donegal, and RB Leipzig to pay tribute to the residents of Creeslough.
In the same town, on the same night, it was the target of a young Milford woman, Amber Barrett, whose grandparents are from Creeslough, who seemed to transcend the language.
As her hand touched her black armband, no words were needed to explain to the world who this gate was for.
Candlelight vigils were held across Donegal to honor the 10 people who lost their lives.
While many struggled to express their feelings, they found a few words of comfort in song. The song was sung in towns, villages and market squares across the county from Carndonagh to Mountcharles, and is particularly popular when Donegal residents gather – usually far from home.
This song, The houses of Donegalhas now taken on a new resonance in the face of such a loss and reflects the things the people of Donegal hold with fierce pride – our loved ones and the place we come from.
I just stopped by to see you all, I’m only staying for a while
I want to hear how you are, I want to see you smile.
I’m happy to be back and greet you big and small,
Because there is no other place on earth like the houses of Donegal.
Raising our voices in a song we almost learned through osmosis, we told the people of Creeslough that we know these vigils cannot ease your pain, but neither will we refrain. We tried to let them know that while we cannot hold back the waves of pain and sorrow, we will stand with them in the tide.
We said we can’t stop the cold wind from blowing through your once peaceful valley, but we’ll try to protect you from its strongest ravages.
All week, in a burst of sadness, the people of Donegal said we keep the candle burning and promise we will never forget your loved ones.
We will always remember Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan; Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter, Shauna Flanagan Garwe; Leona Harper, Jessica Gallagher, James O’Flaherty, Martin McGill, Martina Martin and Hugh Kelly.
The tradition of gathering for the wake is stronger here than in many parts of the country. Although nothing of this magnitude has ever been seen in a small place, the people of Creeslough kept the traditions of the wake, with prayers and cups of tea and neighbors sitting side by side in kitchens and living rooms just listening to the bereaved .
There are few of us in Donegal who have not woken a loved one in their own home, served tea to those who came to pay their respects, or stood in the rain wearing safety vests to watch traffic to the wake house to direct.
Those traditions, passed down from generation to generation, mother to daughter and father to son, were maintained this week as the ritual was a life raft in a sea of sorrow.
In Creeslough people lined the streets. They stood as the rain fell. They gathered in front of the churches when there was no space inside. They held hands and supported each other – people forever bound by an unfathomable loss.
In the words of Father John Joe Duffy, Creeslough has given the world a new understanding of the power of community.
When people here didn’t know what to say, they started sharing photos of our home on social media and WhatsApp groups, dedicating to the people of Creeslough the beautiful sunrise or crashing wave they had captured .
In this place we call home, many of us have turned to the beauty of nature, the majesty of the mountains, and the incessant energy of the Atlantic Ocean for solace during these dark days.
Nothing that happened makes any sense. It never will. We can only hope and pray that in the stillness of their grief and heartbreak, the people of Creeslough will feel the love and compassion for them in our hearts; that it could be a beacon of hope to help them light their way through the darkness.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/none-of-this-makes-sense-and-it-never-will-but-there-is-so-much-love-and-sympathy-in-creeslough-42068488.html None of it makes sense and never will, but there is so much love and sympathy in Creeslough