A woman who lost her teenage son in in the Omagh bomb almost 10 years ago has told Sunday Life that she still hears him speaking to her.
Marion Radford, whose son Alan was killed in the blast which claimed the lives of 29 people, also revealed she’s considering leaving Northern Ireland for her native Scotland in an effort to make a fresh start.
In an emotional interview, Marion, who was injured in the bomb which ripped through Omagh on August 15, 1998, recalled the last conversation she had with her 16-year-old son.
She described him as an “exceptional boy” and explained how he was well known in the neighbourhood for helping people in need.
“There’s not words to describe that boy. He was very kind and did everything for me. He was like the man of the house because me and his dad are divorced.
“He would go around the neighbourhood helping people — he would sit and listen to people who had depression or people who were alcoholics and help them clean the house,” she said.
“He would come in and say ‘are you all right mum?’ and give my head a pat.”
In the last conversation Marion had with Alan, he told her of things he planned to buy for her when he started work.
“I told him not to worry about that. Our last conversation was good. I told him how proud I was of him.”
Just before the bomb Marion and Alan talked about the bomb scare and went their separate ways.
“Maybe he was going to find out if there was a bomb. He said ‘I’ll see you in a minute’.
“I went into the salad bowl. I had tomatoes in my hand and I was giving the boy the money and I thought ‘I think there’s a bomb here’ — I’m getting Alan and I’m getting out of here.
“Just at that, there was an unearthly bang. I thought I was dreaming. It blew me back to the middle of the shop.
“I still had the tomatoes in my hand because once I got outside I saw bits of bodies, limbs or something, and I dropped the tomatoes with the scare.”
Glass was lodged in Marion’s head and she was taken to hospital before going home to wait for news of Alan.
“As the day went on I began to get really worried. I was so worried I couldn’t move — I was paralysed with fear.
“My son Paul’s dog started howling and I thought Alan’s dead. It was the way the dog was howling. I thought does he see him?”
Marion went to her bedroom to try and get some sleep when she heard her son’s voice.
“I heard Alan call mum, I know that without a doubt. I sat up in bed looking for him.
“When I went into the bedroom a sense of peace came over me. I had an idea he was dead. I believe he called me from where he was. I had that quite a lot after he died.
“It was definitely Alan’s voice — people probably think you’re crazy but I know what I heard. That’s always been a comfort for me.”
Since the day of the bomb, Marion has battled depression and around five years ago she was forced to give up work because of ill health.
She plans to spend the 10th anniversary of the tragedy with her sons and daughters, three of whom moved away from Northern Ireland.
Marion said the 10th anniversary will be no more difficult than any other day.
“I remember Alan every day — not every year or 10 years. The pain is there,” she said.
“I have had a really bad spell of depression at the moment. This is one of the lowest spells I’ve had since Alan died.
“I’m not sleeping well — only about three or four hours a night. Sometimes I’ve bad dreams that would wake me. They’re about horrible things - murder and bad people. My mind’s obviously disturbed.
“When I come off anti-depressants I cry all the time and take panic attacks.”
Ten years after the bomb, Marion is considering leaving Omagh and starting a new life in Scotland.
“I think some day I will make a fresh start out of here. I would have to think about it very carefully because I would be leaving family.
“I don’t know what will happen. I don’t think you can go back in life, you have to go forward.”