LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A tragic explosion at a gas station that left 10 people dead in a small Irish village leads to questions about the randomness in life, said the local bishop.
Ten people were killed after Friday’s explosion in Creeslough, a small village of nearly 400 people located in the far north of the country, in a part of Ulster located in the Republic of Ireland and near the border with Northern Ireland. Eight others were injured.
The gas station also contained the village’s main shop and post office. The blast leveled the building and damaged an adjacent residential building.
Bishop Alan McGuckian of Raphoe celebrated Mass on Sunday in Saint Michael’s Church, the parish of the village. The first of the funerals for the victims took place in the church on Tuesday.
“At this time the people of Creeslough are living through a nightmare of shock and horror since the very heart of the community was deeply wounded on Friday afternoon,” McGuckian said.
“It is an experience that we are living through together, but we recognize that the trauma is different for each single individual. We hold in our hearts most especially those for whom the shock is most acute: We think firstly of the 10 who have lost their lives and gone to God and those nearest to them who are most bitterly bereaved; those who are injured and struggling to recover in body and spirit; everyone, both the community and the first responders in the public services who have carried the burden of being close to the tragedy as it has unfolded; we remember everyone, here in Creeslough and throughout the country who feels helpless and shaken by the shock of what has happened,” he said.
“As people have gathered together in groups to talk about what has happened here these past few days the one word that stands out for me in relation to the explosion is ‘random’,” the bishop said.
“We have a sense it could have been anybody who was caught up in it. There is something deeply shocking and upsetting about what life can throw up. We ask: Why did it have to happen to this person or that person? Why did they have to be there at that awful moment? The bereaved and the injured have to carry the awful insecurity of these question. Others could equally be shaken by a sense of guilt; why was it them and not me who was hit by the ‘randomness’ of this tragedy? It is fundamentally a terrible realization that we are not masters of our own destiny; we are very fragile and vulnerable,” he said.
The victims of the blast were Shauna Flanagan Garwe, five, and her dad, Robert Garwe, 50; Catherine O’Donnell, 39, and her son, James Monaghan, 13; Leona Harper, 14; Jessica Gallagher, 24; James O’Flaherty, 48; Martin McGill, 49; Martina Martin, 49; and Hugh Kelly, 59. Police are still investigating the cause of the explosion.
Their funerals are scheduled to take place this week in the small town, with Gallagher’s and McGill’s taking place on Tuesday.
Speaking before the first funeral, Father John Joe Duffy said there were “no words and I’m trying to find words this morning.”
“I’m one of the locals here. I am one of the people, I’m just ordinary, I may wear this collar but I’m struggling to find words” he said, according to Irish broadcaster RTÉ. “There will be difficult days ahead, there will be hard days ahead.”
The parish priest added, “All we can pray for is through the help of everyone that people will get through this, but I am worried for people.”
In a message sent to McGuckian, Pope Francis expressed his “spiritual closeness” to the community of Cresslough and people of Ireland.
In his message, the pontiff said he “was saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction caused by the explosion.”
This article incorporates material from the Associated Press.
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