Loughinisland: Tight-knit community brought even closer in face of adversity
It is in the face of adversity that true character emerges, and that is what happened in the small village of Loughinisland.
The people of Loughinisland, where I lived for several years, are among the most spirited, courageous, warm and charitable people I have ever met.
I was 17 and quite naive about the Troubles when the UVF opened fire in the village’s small bar, the Heights.
Myself and a number of friends were at a wedding party in a hotel just a few miles down the road in Downpatrick.
Quite a few of the wedding guests were from Loughinisland or had family and friends living in the village.
The wedding, World Cup fever and a very warm summer evening had put everyone there in good spirits.
A large crowd was on the dance floor and the father of the bride was keeping some guests amused with a funny anecdote.
I cannot remember how the news was broken, but I can remember the laughter stopping and what can only be described as a feeling of real dread that seemed to sweep through the room.
It was the time before mobile phones and everyone left the hall where the wedding celebrations were being held to gather around two payphones in the hotel’s reception area, frantically calling loved ones to make sure that they were OK.
I have a vivid memory of people crying and hugging each other in the midst of all the confusion.
To most people, the only image they know of the Heights bar is that famous photograph of an empty room with a bloodsoaked floor and half-finished drinks still sitting on tables.
Walking past the bar today, it is nice to look in and see people smiling. The term community spirit can be seen as a bit of a cliche, but it was the strong community bond that helped spur the people of Loughinisland on after the horrifying events of June 18, 1994.