At 3.10 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, August 15, 1998, a car bomb exploded in a crowded shopping area of Omagh, Co Tyrone. The horror of that day's news will, I believe, last a lifetime for all who lived on this island that day. 28 people killed and hundreds injured. Details of the impact of the explosion emerged throughout that afternoon and evening: that the dead included three generations of one family, a woman who was pregnant with twins, her baby, and her mother; that three children from Buncrana, Co Donegal, had died, as had a Spanish child and a Spanish group leader; and that a misleading warning had resulted in people converging in the area where the bomb was about to go off. The President, Mrs McAleese, visited Omagh on Sunday and condemned the attackers as "a posse of serial killers".
Donna Maria Barker said she never realised how green her son's eyes were until she saw him lying on a mortuary slab. "To see him lying there with half of his head gone and those beautiful green eyes looking out at me as if he was waiting for me was devastating," she said.
"I never realised how green his eyes were. That image will stay with me for the rest of my life."
Donna and her husband, Victor, an English-born lawyer, had moved their four children to Ireland from England last year "to give them a better quality of life".
James (12) from Buncrana in Co Donegal was on a visit to Omagh folk park with his friends Oran Doherty and Sean McLaughlin, and a group of Spanish students on an exchange visit. He was an avid Chelsea supporter. He was due to start secondary school in Belfast next month.
"We thought we were coming to Ireland to have a peaceful life. It has gone so very wrong," Donna said.
Unable to cope with continued political tension here and the slow pace of the investigation, the family recently took the extremely hard decision to return to England. James' body was exhumed from the cemetery in Buncrana and re-interred in the grounds of his old school near the family home.
My kiss will give you peace now
And quiet to your heart -
Sleep on in peace now,
O you unquiet heart!
James Joyce (Sleep now, O sleep now)
Oran Doherty (8) also from Buncrana, Co Donegal, had been looking forward to going to Omagh all week.
"He was so excited about the trip," said his sister Liza. "He came into my room for sweets before he left on Saturday because he was a bad traveller.
"He took two sweets and when I told him to take more he only took another two. Any other child would have taken a handful but that was the kind of boy he was. So loving and gentle and very generous. He was just an angel and we will all miss him so much. We will never, ever get over this."
The Dohertys live in Knockalla Park in Buncrana.
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
Satish Kumar (Prayer for Peace)
The McLaughlins live just two doors up from the Dohertys. Sean (12) was an altar boy at the local church, St Michael's Oratory. Father Charles Keaney said: "He was a lovely wee fellow. The one memory I have of him is of his happy, smiling face." Sean's uncle, Michael Doherty, said the family couldn't understand why their precious child had to die in that way.
Sean was among a group of school children who visited President McAleese in Áras an Uachtaráin and wrote the following poem:
Orange and green, it doesn't matter
United now, don't shatter our dream.
Scatter the seeds of peace
Over our land,
So we can travel hand in hand
Across the bridge of hope.
Fernando Blasco (12) was one of a group of Spanish children on an exchange programme with a group of Donegal children. He was from Madrid where he attended a Jesuit college. In coming to Ireland to study English he was following in the footsteps of his six brothers and sisters.
His parents travelled to Omagh to bring home his body. They were accompanied by the Spanish ambassador to Ireland to the temporary morgue in a British army barracks in Omagh to formally identify their son.
It was the second time that the Blasco family had suffered at the hands of terrorists - the youngsters' father Manuel was injured in an ETA bomb placed in a supermarekt in Madrid in 1992.
Peace is indivisable
Maxim Litvinov (Note to the Allies)
Rocio Abad Ramos was a student from Madrid who was to finish a biology degree next month. It was her fifth trip to Ireland. She loved the country. She was the leader of the exchange group and was helping supervise the Spanish children on a day out as part of their language course. Ms Abad (24) was due to return to Spain shortly for her sister's wedding.
"For every thousand pages published on the causes of war, there is less than one page directly on the causes of peace."
--Geoffrey Blainey, (The Causes of War)
Philomena Skelton only went into Omagh twice a year - to do her Christmas shopping and to buy her children uniforms for returning to school. She lived in Drumquin and rarely left the village.
"Mena was such a home bird," said her husband Kevin. "She hardly ever went out. We did everything together like the grocery shopping every evening."
Last Saturday Philomena (39) was accompanied by Kevin and daughters Shauna (13), Tracey (15), and Paula (18). Her son Ray (16) was on a fishing trip. She was caught in the explosion as her daughters tried on school uniforms. Kevin was in a neighbouring shop when the bomb exploded. "We were only three feet apart, with just a shop dividing us, yet she was killed and I came out of it with hardly a scratch," he said. "I find that very difficult to accept."
The couple met when Philomena was 15 and married four years later. They were to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary at the end of this month. "She gave me 20 years of happiness and four wonderful kids," Kevin said.
When will the world know that peace and propagation are the two most delightful things in it?
Esther Gibson (36) had picked her wedding ring. She met Kenneth Hawkes last March and it was love at first sight. They got engaged two months later on Kenneth's birthday and were due to be married on Esther's birthday next year.
But first Esther was to be chief bridesmaid at her sister Caroline's wedding next month. "After that, we planned to concentrate on organising our own," said Kenneth who couldn't stop crying yesterday. "We had our rings picked and we were waiting for planning permission to build a house.
"Esther was kind and loving - the most generous person I have ever known. She loved children. She couldn't wait to start a family. We wanted a boy and a girl."
Esther came from a big family herself. She was the eldest of 11 - five girls and six boys who grew up on a farm outside Beragh, Co Tyrone. She had worked in Desmonds clothing factory for 15 years and was a Sunday school teacher for the Rev Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church at Sixmilecross. "She was a fine girl with a good future," Dr Paisley said. "This is terrible for the children and the congregation." Her uncle is the DUP assembly member for West Tyrone, Oliver Gibson. Kenneth found Esther's car in Dunnes' carpark in Omagh last Saturday.
Her shopping bags were still on the back seat where she had left them.
Peace if possible, but truth at any rate
Avril Monaghan (30) was heavily pregnant with twins. She was in town with her 18-month-old daughter Maura and her mother, Mary Grimes, to celebrate Mary's birthday.
Avril lived in Aughadarra, about 15 miles from Omagh. She worked as a secretary and had three other children under 7 - Aoibheann, Eilise and Patrick. Relatives said she had been "looking forward to bringing her family up in a peaceful society following the Good Friday agreement and referendum". Her husband Michael is said to be "shattered" by the death of his wife and daughter.
The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.
Jawaharlal Nehru (on the assassination of Gandhi)
Maura Monaghan was only 18 months when she was killed with her mother and grandmother. She was the youngest victim of the Omagh bombing.
Pity the planet, all joy gone
from this sweet volcanic cone;
peace to our children when they fall
in small war on the heels of small war - until
the end of time
to police the earth, a ghost
orbiting forever lost
in our monotonous sublime.
Robert Lowell (Waking Early Sunday Morning)
Mary Grimes (65) was a mother of 12. Born in Co Cork, she was a former maternity nurse. She died on her birthday with her daughter Avril, granddaughter Maura and unborn twin granddaughters.
She lived on a dairy farm in Beragh with her husband Mick. He had been waiting with flowers to welcome her home when the terrible news began to filter through. The couple were very religious and attended Mass every day. Father Arthur McAnerney said he couldn't praise the family highly enough. "They are very good people, very courageous people. There are no histrionics," he said.
Religion and peace go together.
To wage war in the name of religion is a contradiction.
Pope John Paul II
Geraldine Breslin was killed as she ran out of Watterson's clothes shop only to be hit by the full force of the blast. She worked in the store. Her husband Mark and son Gareth (14) are being comforted by friends. Geraldine (35) was from Omagh. Local priest, Father John Forbes, said: "She was a beautiful woman who was the salt of the earth."
Peace is made with yesterday's enemies.
What is the alternative?
Anne McCombe (48) was Geraldine Breslin's best friend. They worked together in Watterson's. They were on a tea break when the bomb exploded outside the shop. Anne was a Protestant but their friendship bridged the sectarian divide. Ann was married with two sons, Colin (18) and Clive (22).
"She was not just my wife, she was my best friend as well," said her husband Stanley. "She was such a loving, caring person. She had not a bad word to say about anybody." Anne loved going for long walks in the countryside and singing in the church choir. She had nursed her own parents who both died within the past year. She was a strong supporter of the peace process.
There is no way to peace.
Peace is the way.
Veda Short (56) worked in the lingerie department at Watterson's. She and her husband William have one son, three daughters and a grandchild. She lived in Gortiaclare, south Armagh.
At her funeral the Rev Albin Rankin described her as "a lovely, kindhearted, generous person; a sinceer and supportive friend; a willing and eager helper; a person who gave so much to so many and asked for nothing in return."
Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.
The foundation of such a method is love.
Martin Luther King
Aidan Gallagher (21) went into Watterson's to buy new boots and a pair of jeans. He had studied car bodywork at Portadown College and spent two years building up his own firm. He was crazy about cars, his friends said. He would normally have been working on a Saturday afternoon but changed his plans and decided to go into town with a friend instead. His friend was badly injured.
Aidan was the only son in the family. It is not the first time the Gallagher's have lost a loved one during the Troubles. Aidan's uncle Hugh, a former part-time UDR soldier, was shot dead by the IRA while working as a taxidriver in Omagh 14 years ago.
The real Ireland is walking in spirit behind the coffins of your sons.
Elizabeth Rush (57) lived for her small pine and canework shop next door to the Cosy Corner pub in Omagh. She had a cafe upstairs which was a popular meeting place in the town. Elizabeth, known as Libby to her friends, was killed in her shop.
She is survived by her husband Lawrence, daughter Siobhán and sons Anthony and Andrew.
It must be a peace without victory ..
. only a peace between equals can last.
Everybody said Jolene Marlow was a kindhearted girl. Jolene (17) and her sister Nicola (15) had taken their great aunt, Bernie Shaw (75), into Omagh on a shopping trip.
As well as being a talented student and sportswoman, Jolene was also a member of Amnesty International and, according to her parents could not tolerate racists. "She was a beautiful girl, a leader in this house. The rest of the family adored her and looked up to her," said her father Joe.
The family are from Newtownsaville. Jolene had three brothers.
Lies written down
For white folks
Ain't for us a'tall:
Liberty and Justice -
Huh! - For All?
Langston Hughes (Children's Rhymes)
Samantha McFarland (17) was a student at Strabane College. She was killed with her best friend Lorraine Wilson.
The two friends had spent many days and nights talking over their plans for the future according to Samantha's brother Richard.
"They both wanted to achieve at school and they both wnated to travel. Samantha's desire was to travel the world and she told mum every week that she wanted to do it. She can now travel with Lorraine where she wants because the human soul knows no boundaries," he said.
There is a magnet in your heart that will atract true friend. That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first... when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.
Lorraine Wilson (15), a schoolgirl, was working with Samantha in the charity shop run by Oxfam in Omagh. They were evacuated and left the building together. They walked into the bomb.
Lorraine played hockey and went horseriding and wanted to be a chef when she left school.
"She used to cook our Sunday lunches every week. Now never a Sunday will go by without us missing her and thinking of her," said her mother.
"We reared an angel to 15 and now she has been taken from us," said her father. The teenager is survived by her sister Denise and brothers Garry and Colin.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Gareth Conway (18) from Carrickmore was about to enrol in an engineering course when he was killed. His father Mickey plays handball at All-Ireland level and he and his wife Marie have another son and two daughters.
Gareth had just left Omagh Technical College and had been accepted for a place at the Magee College. His exam results were due out this week. He was in Omagh to buy a pair of contact lenses. ["]`I would say this has been the worst day of my life," said his local parish priest, Father Sean Hegarty.
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
Mahatma Gandhi (Non-Violence in Peace and War)
Alan Radford (16) would have got his GCSE results the following week. His family were delighted that he had taken his exams. Alan was in town to help his mother with the shopping. His brother Paul went searching for him after the bomb but could not find him. So Paul helped the other injured. Alan wasn't identified until Sunday.
Paul said it was so cruel that his brother had been killed when he had never been involved in politics in any way.
My country is the world and my religion is to do good.
Thomas Paine (The Rights of Man)
Fred White (60) had just came home from a holiday abroad and had gone into town with his son Brian (27) to get shopping. Both died in the blast. Mr White had worked for the local education board and was an office-holder in the local Omagh Ulster Unionist Association. Mr David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, visited the family and said:
"His death and that of his son is a tremendous tragedy for me personally."
If peace cannot be maintained with honour, it is no longer peace.
Lord John Russell
Brian White (26) had recently been promoted in his council job and shared his father's interest in horticulture. He lived at home and is survived by his mother, Edith and his only sister, Linda.
They make a wilderness and call it peace.
Brian McCrory(54), a father of three from Omagh. Fr Eugene Hasson said he had died in the most violent way imaginable, in complete contrast to the gentleness of his life. He said that he had spoken at length with the widow, Bernadette McCrory since her husband's death. "She said to me she would be willing to carry the cross of her loss for the rest of her life if Brian's death was the last such one," he said. Mr McRory also leaves two sons Colin and Brian and a daughter Louise.
Ireland, as distinct from her people, is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for "Ireland," and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, shame and degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland-yea, wrought by Irishmen upon Irish men and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland.
Aged 60, from Omagh., was one of eight motehrs who died in the atrocity and is survived by her husband Percy, son Mark and daughter Mandy. The president of the Mayne Methodist church said the family was "very, very devastated" but were finding "a onsiderable amount of comfort and consolation from their own deep Christian faith" and from the help of their clergy.
He was a martyr of peace but was the victim of hate. If people can't let go to the hatred of their enemies they risk sowing the seeds of hate among themselves.
Bill Clinton (Remarks at the Funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, the late Prime Minister of Israel)
DEBRA ANNE CARTWRIGHT
Aged 20, from Omagh was, like Samantha McFarland who also died, a past pupil of Omagh High School. The daughter of a policeman, Debra Anne was working in a beauty shop in Omagh before she was caught in the blast. Her former school principal remembered her as an excellent pupil who was involved in cross-community activities.
"She was a prefect and excelled at cross-community activities with catholic schools in the town. She went to denmark for two weeks and brought some Danes back to Omagh to live with both Protestant and Catholic families." said Bill Harper.
A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.
George William Curtis