Editor's Viewpoint: Communities will reach out to families in times of tragedy
The phrase, every parents' nightmare, is one of the most over-used cliches to describe serious events involving young people, but in the case of what unfolded at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on Sunday night, it is used in its right context.
At a time when a large number of teenagers should have been inside the hotel enjoying a St Patrick's Day party, police were appealing for parents to come to the hotel to collect their children after a tragedy which left three young people dead and others injured.
It is impossible to imagine the thoughts that must have gone through those parents' minds as they raced to the hotel, all the time frantically trying to make contact with their children and wondering exactly what had gone on.
For three families there would be no relief from that worry, only the realisation that the children they had seen off earlier that evening full of the joys of life and looking forward to a great night out were now dead. How could a night of promise and fun had turned to such tragedy even before the doors to the party were opened?
We will only get the full answer to that question when police and health and safety officials complete their inquiry, but it is apparent that there was a crush when the crowd surged forward at one stage and people fell to the ground and then others were also pushed over as the momentum continued.
It was a tragedy that no one could have anticipated. One of the young people who was among the trapped and the stepmother of two other boys who were there have given their accounts of the horror of Sunday night and it is clear that what they saw and feared will stay with them for a very long time.
Young people, as is ever their wont, feel immortal in their teenage years, but those who were at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown now realise that life can be fleeting and that it is always fragile.
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That message will have resonated particularly with the teams at the Schools' Cup finals in GAA and rugby which each held a minutes silence for their dead peers in Tyrone. They were having the day of their young lives but one girl and two boys were destined never to reach even their age.
And, sadly on what was a holiday weekend, there are several other families grieving today after losing loved ones. The body of missing mother-of-three Ruth Maguire has been recovered from Carlingford Lough. She went missing after attending the hen party of a friend.
Six motorists and a pedestrian also lost their lives on a black four days on the roads. Two of them, men from Co Down, died in an accident in Co Louth.
Whatever the circumstances of each of those deaths, the end result is families in sorrow. Every one of the victims had left home fully in the expectation of returning there safe and sound, but it was not to be. We cannot know what plans they had invested in their lives and now their families are just left with memories of what they were.
If there is any comfort at all to be drawn from each of these tragedies, it is the certainty that even in this divided society people of all persuasions and none will rally round their friends and neighbours offering what succour and help that they can. They will be there for a shoulder to cry on and a friend to try to make sense of the inexplicable.
It is in these times that people find the humanity and the empathy to reach out and try to bring comfort to the broken-hearted. We are at our best in the worst of times.