The radio warned of bad weather. Only go out if necessary, the announcer said. Well I thought it necessary, and it wouldn’t be for long. Just a few of us out on the street, determined to make our point. I braved the wail of the wind, that blew my umbrella inside out in seconds, breaking three spokes as it did so. I endured the lash of water saturating my clothes, oozing into my skin. I had promised to be there, and so I would.
The crowd was unexpectedly large. As if the rain and wind had thrown down a gauntlet and people had risen to the challenge. We marched to the sound of a drum beat, drenched. We would not let the cold defeat us.
We did not expect the soldiers. Fully armed soldiers standing on the corner as we moved towards our final destination. I thought they were there for show. To intimidate our rain-soaked bodies back home, with our bedraggled tails between our legs. We refused to be intimidated. We marched on.
A sergeant-major barked an order, and the soldiers blocked our path. Our leaders hesitated for a moment. Then stood their ground. Some called for quiet. Others began to chant. We halted. The soldiers cocked their rifles. The rain poured down.
Who knows what triggered it. A shout? A stone? The slip of a finger? Too hard to say in the noise of the gale and the blurring water flooding from the sky. But we all heard the unbelievable sound of a shot. So unreal I thought it must be a car back-firing. Until I saw the mass of people begin to run in different directions. Another shot. And another. A squeal of pain. A crack of bone. The soft thud of bodies tumbling to the ground.
I ran and ran and ran. Shouts echoed all around me. Shots ricocheted off buildings.
And the rain kept falling.
(Bloody Sunday – In Memoriam)