Monday, 23 November 2015

A fitting memorial in the face of such appalling loss

There are a couple of dates that will stay with me for a very long time.

The date of August 22, 2015, was the day that life ended for 11 men in the Shoreham Air Show tragedy and the worlds of their families and friends changed forever.

And November 22, 2015, was the day those relatives and friends gathered at  Lancing College Chapel to pay tribute to the men they had loved and lost just three months earlier.

They were not alone in that commemoration but joined by hundreds of police, firemen and women, ambulance workers and community volunteers who played such a critical role on that brutal summer’s day and such a supportive role ever since.

The idea of a service to support those grieving families and to help those first responders to heal was proposed by Shoreham MP Tim Loughton.

And, like so much that has happened out of this tragedy, people rallied and united to plan an event which would be a fitting memorial in the face of such appalling loss.

Lancing College offered its Chapel to host the Memorial Service and Ricardo’s agreed the use of its car park for the hundreds of people who would attend.

West Sussex County Council provided support as did Adur and Worthing Councils, the Diocese, Sussex Police and its invaluable liaison officers – all working with one purpose in mind, that the service should help people in the grieving process.

There has been considerable work going on in the background all done quietly and respectfully which I believe was reflected in the service.

The Bishop led the service with a kind, gentle touch.  I admired the relatives who lit 11 candles in memory of their loved ones and gave such beautiful readings in voices that never faltered.

The heads of each emergency service also reflected on a day which started “like any other” but ended with such devastation.  They also reflected on their pride at the dedication and professionalism of all those caught up in that terrible event and the spirit of unity and solidarity which has sprung from it.

Sitting at the back of the Chapel and listening to the service was a privilege that I will always remember.

Before and after the event, families gathered for an informal reception.  Here they had the chance to view the Books of Condolences on display together with a collage of some of the hundreds of written tributes laid with flowers on the toll bridge after the incident.

The Shoreham tragedy was as unexpected as it was brutal – taking away lives not fully lived and laying waste to the lives of those who loved them.

For younger people this could well have been the first experience of a tragic death and throughout these three months the relatives and friends of loved ones have had to face a situation most of us will never ever have to face.

Their lives have been randomly turned inside out.

Making sense of what has happened and why is part of the grieving process. People grieve in different ways and at different times. It comes and it goes and each person has to deal with their grief in their own way.

Our contribution, this Memorial Service, was one small way we could help in that grieving process.

Those who grieve walk an unknown path but, as they travel along it, they should be supported in each and every step by the love shown by others.

The communities in and around Shoreham have shown that love in so many ways and I hope that has helped ease the journey for those whose lives changed forever on August 22, 2015.

And that is why the Memorial Service held on November 22 was so very special for so many.
Best wishes,

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