Ireland north and south, Belfast east and west, and unionist, nationalist and neither were united at St Anne’s Cathedral yesterday in remembrance of the horrific Belfast Blitz.
Hundreds of people attended the ecumenical service to mark the 75th anniversary of the German raids on Belfast.
There was cross-community praise last night for the dignified commemoration to mark what was by far the worst night in the history of the city.
It is moving to read on these pages today about the gratitude that the family of Marion Kirkpatrick, who is now aged 90 and was rescued from the rubble after being trapped for five hours in Easter 1941, feels towards the southern Irish fire teams that dashed north of the border to assist in the chaos.
The sheer scale of the blitz casualties is extraordinary. Father Michael Sheehan was the appropriate choice of clergyman to give yesterday’s sermon, given that 130 of his church’s parishioners were killed in the attacks in one night alone, Easter 1941.
It is poignant to think that Father Sheehan’s church has inadvertently become embroiled in division, in the form of parade controversies outside it in Donegall Street, when it was once a place that suffered horrendously at a time when Protestant and Catholic died side by side.
In no other Belfast incident has there been anything like as many people killed in a short space of time in the city as were killed on those four German blitz nights, and it is to be hoped there will never be anything remotely like it in the future.
Las Fallon, a firefighter from the Republic, tells the News Letter today how the Dublin fire brigade had more volunteers to go to Belfast than they had capacity to send north.
Amidst the tragedy, the best of humanity came to the fore.
That unity in the face of extreme trauma was reflected in yesterday’s service.