Hundreds of local people turned out in solidarity with the families of the local victims of the Omagh bombing as they remembered those who had lost their lives in the Real IRA atrocity.
Relatives and clergy spoke of the painful loss endured over the past 20 years, their fond memories of the children and the unbreakable bonds forged as they addressed those gathered on Wednesday at Knockalla Drive, where two of the young victims, Sean McLaughlin (12) and Oran Doherty (8) had lived.
The poignant ceremony was opened by the Lennon Family, setting the tone with a rendition of ‘Broken Things’ against a backdrop of a setting sun over the mountains across from Lough Swilly.
Local priest Father Francis Bradley welcomed those gathered on behalf of the McLaughlin and Doherty families, and said they had gathered to “recall the memories of those who died 20 years ago today, those who were injured and hurt in so many ways, and those who still carry that hurt even today”.
Those gathered inside and outside the large open fronted marquee lit candles in memory of Oran, Sean, James Barker (12), and Spanish exchange students Fernando Blasco Baselga (12) and Rocio Abad Ramous (23), all of whom left for a day trip on that morning on August 15, 1998, never to return.
Gospel readings were read out by Church of Ireland Reverend Judi McGaffin and Catholic priest Father John Walsh, after which, a mid the cries of hundreds of crows swooping overhead, Heidi Gill, a young niece of Oran Doherty, read a poem entitled ‘Our Brief Rainbow’ about the two boys, with its final lines: ‘Rainbows, however brief, make the world a brighter, lovelier place/ How grateful we are to have had them both, our brief rainbows’.
Fr Bradley said most of those gathered will remember where we where that day when we heard the terrible news.
“For many of us, all we could do then was pray in faith and if possible, reach out to those affected in solidarity and hope. In that sense, little has changed.
“Here and elsewhere, north and south, in Ireland and in Spain, amid scenes of immense crowds and streets and churches and television cameras everywhere, we consoled the living and buried our dead children, youngsters, youths, adults and elderly, women and men, unborn babies still nestled in their mother’s womb, Odhran Doherty and Sean McLaughlin from this street among them, Rocio Abad Ramous, James Barker and Fernando Blasco Baselga, who left here with them. In total 31 souls who left the world that day.”
He spoke of the care and attention provided by medical staff in the aftermath of the bombing and “in homes and communities, on streets”.
Sean’s brother Christopher, recited ‘Bridge of Hope, Orange & Green’ before a lone violinist played a solemn air as local principal, Sinead McLaughlin, read out the names of the 29 victims who lost their lives that day and recited a poem by Sean’s aunt Marjorie McDaid entitled simply ‘Oran and Sean’ with its lines: “Two little boys left this street 20 years ago today, hopping and skipping along the way/ Off to Omagh for the day... Early Sunday morning the news came through, 31 lives lost, of which our boys were two... We are gathered here to remember and to fondly recall how blessed we were to have had them, and how they are loved by us all.”
Paola Mahon, fought back tears as she expressed her gratitude on behalf of the Spanish students and friends for the love and hospitality they have been shown by the people of Buncrana.
Speaking on behalf of the two families, Jenna McDaid thanked all those who had assisted Sean’s mum Patricia and Oran’s mum Bernie and aunt Martina McDaid, who had been instrumental in organising the event and all those who had assembled.
She said they had wanted to hold the Service close to the boys’ home”where they would have most of their memories.” Addressing Bernie and Patricia, she added: “The 20th anniversary has been very difficult and this Service has been no doubt difficult for you to organise. But for the two grieving mothers to come together and make this personal for your boys, there is no doubt they would be very proud of you.”
The Service was brought to a close with Prayers of Thanksgiving delivered by Dr Dominic Pinto, a now retired surgeon who tended to the wounded in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.