Tuesday, March 11, 2014
There I was, strolling down a very full and vibrant Grafton Street early one Saturday evening recently, inhaling the exuberance of the shoppers bustling and the buskers performing as I went. There was hope of the early Spring that was sure to soon embrace us in the air, and contentment abounded. The only thoughts floating through my mind were the lovely scene unfolding before me and the anticipation of the girly theatre night out ahead.
But then a stray thought cut through the pleasantness....... 'What if something extraordinary were to occur and this sea of bustling shoppers and performing buskers had to immediately evacuate this lovely street? What then?'
Until I remembered that it had happened me once before. A long, long time ago, on a different shopping street.....
Back in the 1970's when I was a young girl, about my own son's age, Dublin City Centre was not all that safe to visit. This was due to the Monaghan/Dublin bombings on 17th May 1974. I was a safe 5 miles away, playing with a small group of pals on my street at the time. Sitting on the kerb, bouncing a ball, if I remember correctly; when we heard a very loud, yet strangely dull 'noise'. I ran home but it was to be a while before the horrific reason for this 'noise' was revealed.
For many years after that there were many bomb scares in Dublin city, many of which I was to experience when I grew up and gained employment in a Department office on O'Connell Street - Dublin's main thoroughfare. A Department that lost a valued member of staff on that fateful day in 1974, as had other Civil Service Departments. A lot of people lost their lives that day.
Of course at the time I was blissfully oblivious to the seriousness of the events, and on what was to come to pass in my working life.
As I got older my best friend and I developed a favourite Saturday afternoon treat. We would travel alone by bus into town. There we would window shop, on the far more affordable Henry Street. We would spend our meagre savings on a little top in Pennys (Primark in the UK - yes, it is around that long!!) and a cream cake from The Kylmore Bakery - that we would happily munch as we contentedly roamed around. Carefree as floating butterflies, not a worry in the world.....
One Saturday afternoon we were accompanied by my mother. In fact she probably accompanied us on a lot of these trips, especially the initial ones. I just remember the freedom of shopping on our own! When we reached Henry Street we went our separate ways; my mam into Dunnes Stores and my friend and I to get our traditional cream cake!
In time we calmly emerged from the shop with coveted cream cake in hand - and landed right into an ocean of bustling shoppers running for their lives. Straight at us!!
We were terrified. What to do? Swiftly turn around and join them was our obvious, immediate and uncommunicated response. Minding the cake as we ran, naturally. We could taste the fear and the panic as we ran, hard and fast. The street was entirely covered by people on the move. With the exception of one tiny pocket of space; containing a very worried mother, frantically looking for her daughter and friend. We two seamlessly became three and continued to flee.
The scariest thing of all was not knowing from what exactly we were fleeing.
We finally came to a stop on O'Connell Street, close to the historic G.P.O. My mam and some women got talking; it transpired that someone had seen something in a clothing display in Dunnes Stores, shouted 'Bomb' and that had started the stampede. It turned out to have been a small fire.
We were very relieved but our shopping day was curtailed.
We strolled back to the bus stop, eating our comforting cakes as we went.
I'm not so sure that much has changed in Dublin, and the world in general since then. The dangers may differ somewhat but they still exist. Especially as we afford our teenagers some latitude for travelling with friends to a local busy town, or shopping mall.
The message is clear though.
Stick with your friends ...... and mind the cake.