A passenger jet crashed into a crowded suburb of the Nigerian city of Lagos on Sunday, killing all 153 passengers and crew. One hundred and fifty three. I think in this day and age, tragedies like this are seen only as numbers, because we live in the age of the twenty four hour news cycle we become, not desensitized, but distracted or maybe disengaged from certain things.
The plane took off from Abuja and was due to land at Lagos airport when it crashed into a furniture workshop, then into residential buildings in the Agege area of the city and exploded. It is likely that there will be further casualties among the residents of the buildings.
I’m Irish. I grew up in a divided Ireland. North and South. English versus Irish. Catholic versus Protestant. My people killed themselves and others needlessly, over religion, over God, over territory, land, history and politics. The Troubles as we like to call them, lasted nearly thirty years until the Good Friday Agreement brought something resembling peace, although there are still factions fighting and killing. Growing up, death was all around you, there was no internet when I was a kid, no mobile phones, no Sky News, no Fox News. You got your news from the radio, the newspaper and from the Nine O’ Clock news on television.
And there is where you heard it, a child killed by a stray bullet, an Irish mother killed for trying to help an injured English soldier, fathers murdered in front of their children, people tortured, raped, beaten, killed, abducted and to this day most of the bodies have not been recovered. I remember the Omagh Bombing vividly because I was older and in the kitchen preparing for the start of a new school term in a few weeks when it came on the radio and my mother ran across the kitchen to the small television to turn it on, where a program was interrupted to reveal the gory details of the bomb attack.
As a kid listening to all this, it just becomes the soundtrack to your childhood, playing softly in the background and every now and then there is an Omagh or a bombing in Northern Ireland, in England or in the South of Ireland. And for every bomb that was found and deactivated by the Police force, there was another one that wasn’t, for every warning phone call, there was a No Warning car bomb, another blast. More death, more loss, more misery.
I refer to Irish people as my people but every person from every walk of life is my people, we are all human, prone to the same glaring mistakes and glittering triumphs, the same tired old clichés, worries and fears, we all hurt, we all feel the loss and we all grieve when it comes to our town, where we live, when it happens to people we know or people who knew the dead.
Death is a five lettered word, so is Peace, which is what we hope the dead have and the grieving will achieve, hopefully sooner rather than later.