The heavy sobbing from victims’ loved ones during the Shankill bomb memorial service yesterday left no doubt as to how much hurt remains.
Twenty years ago at 1.06pm on an unseasonably mild autumn day, seven adults and two children, all shoppers in Frizzell’s fish shop, were murdered.
IRA man Thomas Begley, 22, who carried the bomb into the packed shop, also died.
Hundreds of people gathered in West Kirk Presbyterian Church, on Belfast’s Shankill Road to remember the innocent victims during a poignant memorial service led by the Rev David Clawson at 12.30pm.
Among the congregation yesterday on the Shankill were victims’ families, local people who were on the road that fateful day and politicians including DUP MP Nigel Dodds, DUP councillor Brian Kingston, SDLP MLA Alex Attwood and SDLP councillor Tim Attwood.
Also present were Baroness May Blood and PUP leader Billy Hutchinson.
Members of the ambulance service on the day of the bomb, Northern Ireland Fire Service personnel and countless clergy also attended.
While the service was taking place shops on the Shankill Road pulled down their shutters as a mark of respect.
Hundreds of people also stood outside the church to listen to the memorial service, which was relayed through loudspeakers.
For many the most moving part of the service was watching pupils from the Harmony Primary School (where seven-year-old Michelle Baird was a pupil) and the Girls’ Model (where 13-year-old Leanne Murray was a pupil) leave the church to lay wreaths at a nearby memorial and at the actual bomb site further up the road.
The pupils left at 1.06pm to coincide with the time the bomb went off.
In his address, the Rev Clawson said: “It is right for us to gather in community with one another on the road near to the site of the bomb and in the presence of God.
“Today we gather as a community, we gather with that same Lord Jesus who shares with us our tears and can lead us into hope.
“For everyone in this building and gathered outside, the date has been looming, it does so every year, but maybe more so on this 20th year since that horrific atrocity.”
The Rev Clawson, who has ministered at West Kirk Presbyterian for a few years, said “we should also give thanks to God for the solidarity shown across the Shankill at the time, the solidarity from the entire city, and rest of the country, even from around the world”.
He read a note received at the time of the bomb from “a very disgusted pensioner from the Falls Road” expressing their “deepest sympathy to everyone who was bereaved or injured”.
The Rev Clawson said although it is now 20 years since the Shankill bomb, “for victims’ families and others they have expressed it feels like 20 minutes”.
“Many people here bear physical scars received on that day,” he said. “Many who did not receive physical scars carry scars which are psychological and emotional.”
He added that the bereaved feel their grief poignantly throughout the generations.
“Families bear the scars within your families, parents, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, new babies born, new events happen and such great loss within your families. Your grief must be immense.”
He had a message for the “greater world who descended on the Shankill Road at the time of the bomb”.
“The world descended on the Shankill in support, and then they left,” he said. “We say as a community here today don’t forget us, embrace us again, seek to understand our community and communities like us with genuine interest.
“Help us to seek the welfare of this part of the city.
“As a minister of the church I ask you to embrace us and stand with us in this part of the city.”
The Rev Clawson was joined during the service by two ministers who were in post on the Shankill Road at the time of the bomb.
Methodist minister the Rev Arthur Parker and Church of Ireland minister the Rev Barry Dodds both offered prayers and read from the Bible during the service.
In addition to those murdered, a total of 57 people were injured, some seriously.
Among them was a 79-year-old woman, and two two-year-old boys.
The Shankill bomb happened just a year before the IRA’s ceasefire.
In revenge for the attack, the UDA carried out a series of retaliatory attacks, killing eight people at a Catholic bar in Greysteel near Londonderry shortly afterwards.