RELATIVES of those who lost their lives in the Claudy bombings joined survivors and friends in a moment of remembrance in the village yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the atrocity.
At 10.15am on July 31, 1972, the first of the three bombs detonated in the quiet Co Londonderry village, killing nine innocent people – both Protestant and Catholic – and shattering the lives of those left behind.
Yesterday, the pain of that horrific day was plainly evident on the faces of the relatives and survivors as they gathered at the bronze statue just yards from where the second of the bombs exploded.
No one has ever been convicted for the attack and the IRA has never admitted responsibility for the bombings.
In the hours before the families met, Martin McGuinness – the second in command of the IRA in Londonderry at the time – released a statement in which he said the attack was “wrong, indefensible”.
The Deputy First Minister also said the families “deserve and are entitled to the truth”.
Several of the families labelled the comments of the Deputy First Minister as meaningless “unless he comes forward himself with the truth”.
However, what they wanted yesterday morning was to remember their loved ones, as they fought back the bitter memories of “rain washing the blood down the streets of Claudy”.
Juliana Temple survived. She was 16 years old, when, as she says, her life was changed for ever.
She had been working at Aiken’s shop on the Main Street when the first bomb went off, killing six people, including the youngest victim, eight-year-old Kathryn Aiken.
“I can still remember that whole day very, very clearly,” she said, pointing out the close proximity of the three devices.
“I was in the shop when the bomb went off and I knew little Kathryn had been out cleaning the windows.
“I have been left with a legacy of injuries, but I don’t need anything to remind me of that day, it will always stay with me.
“The families have stuck together and even though it’s been 40 years, we still need closure.”
David Temple lost his brother William [Billy] – a 16 year-old who had been delivering milk – in the village.
The Donemana teenager had been filling in for a colleague on that fateful day.
“He should never have been in Claudy that day, but he was, and he lost his life,” said David.
“Billy was injured in the first bomb but he survived it and then after another bomb was spotted, he and all the other people ran down into the path of the second bomb which killed him.”
David said an uncle delivered the news of his brother’s death.
He said: “We were told that Billy was killed in Claudy.
“We knew that there was bombs, but some us didn’t even know Billy was in the town.
“It is a day I will never forget. My whole family has had to live with it since.
“What happened to Billy killed my own father [David] who died four years later.
“It destroyed him.”
Mr Temple said he will continue in his search for justice.
“We are still waiting, 40 years after it happened, and still nothing.
“What we do know is that the Government, the Roman Catholic church, the Irish government and the RUC have questions to answer.
“And there are politicians in Stormont who know what happened in Claudy.
“These people have moved on, now they are in Stormont and they can take on and take off their suits, when they want, but we never stop becoming victims, whatever happens we will always be victims.
“It has been 40 years and in another 10 years, some of us could be gone, but however long I live I will continue to fight for the truth.”
Mark Eakin said he had just spoken to his sister Kathryn moments before the first bomb blast.
He said: “I walked past and threw some Windowlene on to the window and she was going mad at me.
“I was walking on down the street, when I heard an unmerciful bang.
“When I turned around I saw Kathryn lying on the street, she wasn’t moving. But she didn’t seem to be badly injured,” said Mark.
The family rushed Kathryn to hospital, but she died on the way.
“It was a complete shock, we all thought she would recover and be up and about in no time.
“Me and my father were sitting against the bonnet of a car after the first bomb, when someone shouted that there was another bomb in that car.
“We looked inside and could see the shape of milk churns under a blanket with wires coming from them, my father shouted to run as fast as I could.
“I was standing in a field and I saw both bombs going off, people didn’t have a chance. Kathryn didn’t have a chance.”