25 years ago the town of Enniskillen in County Fermanagh was devastated by an explosion. Gráinne Harte of The Daily Shift recollects the massacre…
It was devastated in such a way, that the deeply embedded scars have not even come close to being healed. Destruction to the point of despair; but perhaps the most devastating aspect of all to come from that dreaded day in 1987 are the victims claimed by the IRA bomb which blasted through a local community centre.
While attacks like this in Northern Ireland at the time were not uncommon, the Enniskillen bomb is one that, to this day, evokes a shiver of terror down spines of Irish people, both North and South of the border.
It is the words of the survivors that are most haunting. Courageous people who talk about their experience, even though it is clear that they are deeply traumatised by the events of that day. You can hear it in their broken and sometimes hollow voices as they describe the utter terror they went through; watching friends, neighbours and love ones, murdered before their eyes.
Some begged for death themselves, anything to end the agony both physical and psychological. Some describe the horror of coming within inches of death, smelling it, tasting it, breathing it underneath the rubble of a place where they had gathered on a November morning to commemorate veterans of World War I.
The twisted irony of how a day of remembrance for victims of war turned so deadly for those showing their respects is perhaps one of the most horrifying elements of the Enniskillen bombing. Injuries were gruesome and images were horrific.
And yet what is widely reported by victims, reporters and onlookers who quickly descended on the scene of carnage and bloody inhumanity is the air of eerie silence which engulfed this shattered community. The silence of terrorism and the silence of death.
The victims own recollections describe injuries to bodies which the human mind cannot contemplate. One man told of how both his eyeballs hung down from his sockets onto his blood-splattered cheeks. Another describes how his skull was crushed inwards and most of his bones shattered beneath his burning skin. These were the survivors, either the lucky or unlucky, depending on your philosophical view. One man lay in a coma for 13 years before passing away, a prolonging of life, or a prolonging of death?
Another man, covered in rubble, dust and blood lay flat in the midst of the destruction in the aftermath of the blast. He was clutching his daughter’s hand as she lay dying beside him. A few hours later this same man appeared on television screens offering his forgiveness to the bombers who had killed his daughter and 10 other people. He begged that no revenge would be taken, that no more violence would ensue. He is still begging.