Friday, January 05, 2007

The double helix of personal events linked with a terror timeline

I talked about Glenn Patterson’s Lapsed Protestant in an earlier post. But the penultimate chapter surprised me with its oh so accurate description of Lisburn in 1988, the town where I grew up. Streets names, shops, incidents.

I remember well the Market Place “fun run” bombing he describes. So many of Northern Ireland’s tragedies have neat labels to identify them. It was just after my birthday ... coincidentally, exactly two years after Borges’ death (see the previous post to see who he was!).

We’d gone as a family into town to have a meal at the Italian restaurant half way down Piper’s Hill. Many of the roads had earlier been blocked—full of children and adults running the annual half-marathon, and six mile fun run. The sound of the explosion carried across the town. We were perhaps a third of a mile away, and quickly made our way home in the opposite direction to the sirens. The roads now blocked with death, carnage, emergency workers, and panicking people. Nearly twenty years later, flowers still hang at the memorial plaque on Market Place.

So many personal events, visits and locations are marked with dark shadows. Sitting in the Lower Sixth private study room when the wobbly walls of the cabin shook as a bomb exploded down the road outside the TA centre on Wallace Avenue. The boarder who had been “down town” doing a message but arrived safely and breathless ten minutes later.

Even sitting in a lecture theatre in the David Kier building at Queen’s University one night, listening to Patrick Moore talk about astronomy and moon mapping, but in the middle of his lecture also hearing the thud of a device exploding at the side of the City Hall just over a mile away.

And the shenanigans at Drumcree marked out years and years of trouble getting in and out of work in early July as protests

Such a shame that time and events don’t stand on their own. Instead like a double helix, our own personal timeline is plaited together with a parallel timeline of violence and terror.

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