A few years after the end of World War Two, a heartbroken father published a story based on what his young daughter wrote in her diary during her years in hiding with her family in Amsterdam during 1942 to 1944
His cherished little daughter died in Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp in early 1945 - she was just 15 years old.
Had it not been for the words that young teenage girl wrote, millions of people throughout the world today would never have known her name and her story – ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.
Her tragically short life and her innermost feelings and anxieties would have remained hidden. She would have been just a memory for her dad and those few surviving close family members who knew her.
Little did she realise as she penned her simple thoughts that her ordinary story would not only touch the hearts of millions of people but that, even in death, they would ensure she would never be forgotten. She would not be just a statistic on a long list of the forgotten.
In thousands of homes throughout this beautiful but damaged piece of land we call home there are names and voices that have remained hidden and silent for too long.
Names considered by many to be simply statistics in the long list of ‘Lost Lives’ of our casually referred to ‘Troubles’- easily forgotten by some who would prefer that the past and what we did to each other remained hidden.
In many homes there are anonymous names of people who died, not from direct violence, but from the after effects of losing a loved one who was mercilessly murdered. A father who died of shock at hearing the news of his son’s murder.
A wife who died of a broken heart after her husband was killed. A teenager who committed suicide years after his own sister was killed. Too many to name.
In others there are names not even deemed important enough to be put on a list. They are the forgotten names still suffering in silence the mental and physical scars of the wounds and pain of loss inflicted upon them by revenge-inspired predators with a voracious appetite for evil.
Amputees who can still feel the unbearable phantom pain in their missing limb long after the event. Mums and dads and even children cruelly maimed and who, just like those amputees, cannot touch their pain or hold it or soothe it but can feel it in their broken bodies and minds and hearts every day. Mothers staring at the last photo of a son or daughter who had so many hopes and dreams cruelly stolen from them.
Victims who deserve to be not just names on lists and Survivors who continue to suffer in silence. In each and every home that was touched by the evil of our ‘Troubles’ past, there are loved ones who are still in pain and others who stare at an empty chair and the very sound of their loved one’s name evokes lingering, aching grief and unending memories of loss.
The Victims and Survivors of the ‘Troubles’ have been deplorably treated and forgotten by those in authority who say they care but do nothing to deal with the past. Many family members will never live to see justice done or the truth revealed behind their loved one’s murder.
We can all learn so much from little Anne Frank - our stories must be heard - if we don’t speak up for our dead and injured – who will?
I wrote my own story for a number of reasons. Mainly to ensure that, having reluctantly realised that I will probably never get proper justice for the unsolved murder of my brother, and that the truth will probably never be fully revealed, that his name - John Larmour – will not be so easily forgotten.
To help keep his memory alive and that of my Mum and Dad whose premature deaths from broken hearts were the unreported collateral damage of their son’s callous and brutal murder.
I would recommend anyone who has lost a loved one or been injured in our ‘Troubles’ conflict to tell their story. To write it down or record it in some way. I am glad I did it. It has helped in my own healing process.
Not everyone might feel capable of writing such emotive and no doubt harrowing personal family stories of their grief and heartache. Hopefully new story-telling initiatives can be created to support and help them put pen to paper.
Or film producers can create new visual formats such as the recent powerful television series ‘SURVIVORS’ or the poignant ‘HEAR MY VOICE’ film adaptation of artist Colin Davidson’s evocative ‘SILENT TESTIMONY’ portraits exhibition can be replicated to help others still suffering in silence to tell their important stories before it is too late.
I’m reminded of one of the many observations young Anne Frank wrote in her diary:
“What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again”.
We can’t turn back the clock. We can’t heal all our wounds fully. We can’t bring our loved ones back, to hold them just one more time. But maybe we can ensure that they are never forgotten. That they are not just a statistic or a name on a list.
That they are not just a memory for their individual families. That their names and what happened to them and their stories, our stories, are heard throughout the world.
And in doing so not only will we be honouring our loved ones but maybe future generations – our children and grandchildren – will never have to tell such stories of loss and heartache ever again.
• George Larmour is an author, who penned ‘They Killed the Ice Cream Man’ about the murder of his off-duty RUC officer brother by the IRA in an ice-cream parlour on the Lisburn Road, south Belfast, in 1988.