IT’S a beautiful sunny day, the kind of weather that makes you regret your choice of clothing this morning. You stood at the front door earlier on looking at the fog in the sky, not quite knowing if it was going to turn to heat or rain. Let’s face it, the weather man has basically been guestimating all summer.
You’re in City Square and for the first time in your life, you brought a shopping list. There are six very specific things on it. “Do not dilly-dally” you tell yourself. “You have three precious hours away from the little ones and you’re determined to get everything done.”
First thing on the list is dishwasher tablets so you make your way towards Dunnes. It’s midday on a Friday afternoon and the sun is shining through every aperture of City Square. The place is packed. Waterford is looking and feeling especially good.
You haven’t been in Dunnes in a while as ALDI is usually your spot so it takes you a while to find the tablets. You find yourself walking through the aisles in a bit of a daze because suddenly you’re thinking about whether or not you plugged out the iron this morning. You almost bump into an old lady – you’re not paying attention – but as you instinctively say sorry, you get a snap shot in your head of the plug hanging over the side of the ironing board. You plugged it out…all is good again…and you found the dishwasher tablets.
Next up is Porters. Wait, it’s not called Porters anymore is it…Cards n Things. You need to get two cards for two birthdays that are coming up. Just next door…you’re well ahead of schedule. As you peruse the cards, amazed at how Hallmark can get away with charging so much, your mind starts to wander again. What is it with you lately, you can’t seem to keep your concentration on anything except baby bottles, baby clothes and baby not sleeping. You start reading the verse of one of the cards let out a cynical sigh. And then you jump.
It happened involuntarily. Your body jerked before your ears even heard the sound. It was a loud popping sound followed by a piercing scream. You look over at a woman who was standing behind you, she’s looking at you nervously, just as confused as to what just happened. Looking over the shop you see the staff looking very confused, but not scared. This is good. If they’re not scared then something has happened that they’re used to. You don’t get into town anymore so this is probably normal for Waterford these days. And then you see the image that, if you make it that far, you will remember for the rest of your life. There’s a man, dressed from head to toe in black and he has just walked passed the shop, in the direction of Dunnes. He has a gun and he’s shooting at everyone and anyone that he sees. The woman who was behind you has jumped to the ground and she’s now hysterically crying…something that you should be doing. You cry at everything…why are you not crying now?
You crouch down and begin to make your way passed the newspapers, to the front of the shop. You see the man is outside of Dunnes now and is about to make his way in. “Oh God…those poor people,” you think. This is Waterford. This is City Square. Nothing exciting happens here…why is this happening?
There’s a pram sitting on its own outside ‘Jump’ the smoothie bar. You can’t see if there’s a baby in it but you immediately think of your own child, thankfully at home with his grandparents. You creep a bit closer to the edge of the shop, leaning behind a display with a lot of books on top. There are about 5-6 bodies laying motionless on the ground…blood starting to pool around them. After a few moments you hear a manager shouting at you. He’s agitated…as if he has been shouting for longer than you could hear him. He’s telling you to follow them out to the back store…you take one final look at the pram and then do as your told. Within minutes, you are standing in a storeroom, now locked from the inside. From outside you can hear more popping sounds and less screams than before. The unthinkable has happened.
I wanted to write this piece, not for gratuitous reasons, but to put you into a situation that you’ll surely never have to experience. The odds of it happening to us are millions to one. However, all of the victims of these mass shootings thought that it would never happen to them either. The people of Nice, Tunisia, so many states in America. They were in the towns and cities that they knew and loved so much and suddenly they became the scene of nightmares. Mass murder, military coups, racism on a scale that we never thought possible. Does it feel like the world’s clock is ticking faster than it ever has before? Does it make you want to embrace the life that you have in Waterford right now and appreciate every little thing that happens to you from the moment you wake until the moment you have that last cup of tea at night?
I think we need to spread smiles, laughter and positivity everywhere we go in the hope that it spreads faster than smallpox. Go out this weekend and savor every minute of the Spraoi Festival, which at its heart, celebrates everything that is weird and wonderful about the human condition.