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Sunday, July 06, 2008

20 Years ago


Just two words matter tonight - PIPER ALPHA.

I have made a point of blogging at this exact time today.
20 years ago (hmmm - do you see my drift?) at this exact time, I made it home on a Wednesday night after a 7 day shift and a 13 hour day and had just walked home, noticing that the sky was unusually full of helicopters.

I sat down with my uisge-beatha in one hand and my leann in the other, ready for my weekend off, with the telly on in the corner on the news channel trying to figure out what was happening in Toytown
™, when the phone tinkled.

That's when, as they say, the brown stuff hit the fan. "PC Noddy get your behind into HQ, you are on the Casualty Documentation team for an offshore incident mate," said a clearly agitated, now retired, Constable Constable (honest that's his name).

I spent most of the rest of the week and the weekend answering calls from all around the world from families, some destined to be bereaved, asking them all sorts of personal questions.

Initially, like many others we saw the pictures of casualties arriving by whirlybird at Toytown
™ Hospital and figured they'd be the worst ones. That's natural isn't it. Worst casualties to the front of the queue and all that.

However, just after 1am a deathly hush descended on the major incident room as our skipper announced that they would be the only ones that would be coming home and that, at this early stage, the expected death toll would be 170. The final toll was 167.

Let's just say the phones didn't stop ringing thereafter and just as well, because no-one wanted to dwell on our thoughts at that time.

Some time later I was at Hazlehead Park when they unveiled the memorial to the victims and patrolling nearby discreetly, when one of the survivors came over towards me and away from the ceremony. He was clearly needing someone to talk to and wanting away from the throng.

I spent a truly humbling 30 minutes or so speaking to Bob Ballantyne about his experiences and why he felt unable to be in amongst the bereaved due to his feelings of guilt in surviving. I was glad I was there to share our very different experiences of the day, because there can be no doubt THAT DAY did effect many people in many differing ways.

Bob, sadly, is with us no more, passing away at only 61 years of age from cancer (incidentally just like my father). Before his passing, he did much to pressurise those in power to prevent such a disaster happening again. It will be his lasting legacy to all those who perished and all those who still grieve today and especially tonight.

God has a purpose for us all, however convoluted it might seem!

Oidhche mhath leibh.

© Mr Plod

Published by Toy Town™ Times

2 comments:

RT said...

How very sad.

Area Trace No Search said...

A truly moving post on a moving subject Mr Noddy.