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Wednesday, 2 March 2016

March 13th, 1996

I can hardly believe it is nearly 20 years since my mum phoned me on 13 March 1996 and said, "what's happening there? It says they are shooting children!"

(I wrote on this same topic ten years ago here... )

I had had a late night the night before. Sharkey (Brian Harkness), Aileen, Onditz Calparsoro, Aitor, "maw," and all of the others in Ledcameroch House had been partying- calimotxo, beer and smoke and a visit to The Red Comyn Inn, singing to Pulp, Oasis, and other party songs until the wee small hours. I thought she'd meant over there, in Northern Ireland. I thought the latest peace deal had fallen and another senseless act of sectarian, political violence had blighted another small community in Ulster.

But no, it was the beautiful little village I was living and working and partying in. A wee place that had made me very welcome. A place with really lovely, welcoming, down to earth folk.

I still find it difficult to think about what happened in Dunblane Primary School that day.

The weeks following that day were really strange. We still partied as young people do, but in a strange atmosphere of the tragedy- friends were effected - and I knew some of those who lost children (eg one father had been a lecturer of mine). Dunblane was such a small, tight community that even new interlopers like me were part of the larger family of the bereaved. We were harassed in work and out of work by the world press and famous people came and went from the Stakis Hydro. And all of the time the conversation would come round to, "why?" And other impossible, emotive, questions that we will never be able to answer.

I look back to my days in Dunblane with a huge degree of happiness- I met some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. But this time of year is always sad thinking of those little children and their families I met in the weeks after.

What was done there by that man and then by some of those who exploited the event, has stayed with me and will never leave me.

That photo of the class and their teacher, screeching through the fax machine in the reception of the hotel, unthinkingly sent by a news agency to be given to a reporter via one of the local workers, will never leave me either. A happy photo I have since often posed for as a teacher, proudly with my little pupils so full of hope, life, love and vitality. A photo from which the unfulfilled dreams of a generation, and their brave teacher's smiles shocked and saddened all who saw it.

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