Shankill bomb exhibition offers simple, heartbreaking reminders of the darkest of days
Flora Bradley-Watson visits the Methodist church display which remembers the victims of the massacre
Messages on small pieces of paper tell the story of the sense of loss felt in the Shankill community after the 1993 bomb that ripped out its heart.
"In sympathy Michelle, from all your friends at the Girls' Brigade," reads a tribute to Michelle Baird, the seven-year-old schoolgirl who died in the IRA atrocity.
"We will never forget you, you will always be in our hearts," writes another.
Commiserations are also offered from other communities, such as: "From a disabled Catholic and his family to the people of Shankill Road, our thoughts are with you."
For the first time in 20 years, all the carefully preserved ca
rds and floral tributes left after the bombing are on public display.
An exhibition at the Methodist church on the Shankill remembers the nine lives lost in the community and encourages people to leave messages on three memory trees.
Also on display are photographs of the funeral procession, news reports about the bombing and certificates from the RUC given to civilians who helped in the aftermath. Local clergy and counselling services are also on hand for anyone visiting.
Charlie Butler, who lost three relatives in the attack – his niece Evelyn Baird, her partner Michael Morrison and their daughter Michelle – said that he had relied on the support of the Shankill community.
"It gives me strength to see the people are still behind us."
Mr Butler said that he was offended by the unveiling of a plaque in Ardoyne for Thomas Begley, the IRA bomber who was also killed in the attack.
"I think what hurt us more than that was Thomas Begley's father for attending it. He said that if he knew what his son had been doing he would have chained him to the bed," he said.
"It hurt us an awful lot to see him then hugging the Shankhill bomber, Sean Kelly.
"Praise isn't enough for those who have organised this exhibition. It is very dignified," he said.
Stephen Mooney, who was working nearby at Mooney's Master Butchers on the day of the bombing, said the memories are still fresh in his mind.
"I had just walked out the door to go on my lunch when the bomb went off. It seems like yesterday," he said.
"It was the day the heart was ripped out of the Shankill, the Shankill has never been the same since it happened."
Samuel Utley, who was 17 at the time and helped to pull bodies from the wreckage, spoke of how haunted he was by his memories.
"It has brought back a lot of very hurtful memories. It is a day that I hope I never have to go through again. Especially my children, I don't want them to ever see what I saw on that day – it was horrific," he said.
Working just across the street from Frizzell's fish shop where the bomb went off, Mr Utley ran over to help the victims after the blast.
"I was working in the shop when a friend came in that used to work in the Credit Union opposite the bomb site – she was in hysterics," he said.
"I knew I had to do something, everybody had to do something. No matter if they were a 70-year-old man or the child that I was back then – I was just 17. The headline on a piece about me in the Irish News read, 'The day a boy became a man'. It brings back so many memories being here."
Jackie Redpath, one of the organisers of the exhibition, said: "This is a very powerful exhibition. It reminds us all of the outpouring of support at the time – we hope it will contribute to a healing process and shine a light in to the darkness".
The three memory trees, which yesterday were adorned with messages of love and support, will be planted in Woodvale Park.