Shankill bomb: Half a mile of grief
Community unites in dignified tribute to victims
Half a mile of grief filled the Shankill Road on Tuesday night as 1,000 people remembered those killed in five atrocities.
The short stretch of road was filled with memories, loss and pain, and was lined by a close-knit community that will never forget the horror of the Shankill bomb 20 years ago.
A moment's silence at each of the bomb sites saw those still grieving the lost recall their loved ones in tears.
Heads bowed, the only sound to be heard in the usually bustling west Belfast shopping area was adults and teenagers crying.
On the eve of the anniversary of the atrocity at Frizzell's fish shop, the pain was still etched on the faces of those who gathered to reflect.
Young children in prams pushed by sorrowful mothers, elderly women holding one another for support, and bereaved relatives all walked in the footsteps of those killed on October 23, 1993.
The emotional procession up the road took in the five places where wounds of the past are still open – the Balmoral Showrooms Bomb of December 11, 1971; the Bayardo Bar Bomb on August 13, 1975; the Shankill bomb itself; the Four Step Inn bombing of September 29, 1971 and the Mountainview Tavern attack of April 5, 1975.
Music from accordions led individual tributes at each site, followed by Bible readings, a naming of the dead, a minute's silence and a prayer.
Wreaths were brought forward and laid.
As the crowd walked along an eerily silent Shankill Road, children and adults alike carried torches, candles and lights as a symbol of the lives they were there to remember.
At the scene of the Shankill bomb, a former fishmongers which is now a credit union, the sounds of crying were clearly audible.
Michelle Williamson was held by the arm for support as she wept for her parents, George and Gillian.
She was not alone in her sorrow. Those around her on a clear but cold October evening shook with emotion.
Marcus Morrison, the brother of Shankill bomb victim Michael Morrison, told of how he still grieves the loss of one of his best friends.
"But it is good to see so many turn out for tonight, it really does mean a lot," he said.
Michael died alongside his wife, Evelyn and seven-year-old daughter, Michelle. Two children were left orphans.
Last night, family friends recalled the three coffins lined beside one another in the living room. With the road cleared of traffic and noise, organiser John MacVicar said the community hadn't forgotten those who died at the hands of "republican terrorists".
"I think everyone who took part today was either directly affected by what went on or indirectly affected, and for many it was an opportunity to come out and support those families that have been bereaved or suffered injuries," he said.
"A personal friend of mine was killed on this road and he was identified by two tattoos on his shoulder blades and for us all, I think we can touch the emotion here, you can feel it.
"It is about remembering, it is not forgetting those that are no longer with us but it's also about ensuring there are no more Laurens, there are no more Michelles."
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds was also in attendance.
"It's been a very dignified and respectful night. This is the right way for a community to remember such a distressing past," he said.