Most of us have days/dates that are seared into our memories. For me, 20th March 1993 is one of them.
I was 30 years old, and had invited my godsons and their parents up for a weekend. We caught a bus into Warrington and then took the train to Manchester to vist the Granada Studios Tour, a great day out for boys then aged 5 and 3 along with the adults.
It was also the day before Mother's Day (and my sister's birthday), so Warrington town centre was packed with families, children and teens buying flowers, gifts cards and so on.
When we left Manchester, we discovered that trains to Warrington were stoppiong at Birchwood (one stop out from the town) due to an 'incident'. We called a taxi and got home, having been told there'd been a bomb explosion in the town centre. Turning on the TV there was nothing about it, something in Russia remained the top news story throughout.
Two boys were killed by the explosion, Jonathan Ball, aged 3, who had been with his father to buy presents for his mother, and Tim Parry, aged 12, who was looking for a football top. Another fifty people were injured, some seriously.
Twenty five years later, Jonathan would be almost the age I was then, had he lived, and Tim would have been roughly the age I was when I began ministerial training. I wonder how their lives might have emerged, had things been different.
The long term impact of the Warrington bombing is quiet and significant.
Tim Parry's parents devoted huge energy to trying to understand the Northern Irish situation, and I honestly believe this event was a key moment in the Peace Process, which is now so fragile in the face of possible border changes.
There was a degree of outcry from the north of England that the south-centric media had barely mentioned events in Warrington, and again a shift in thinking meant that, subsequently, such events did receive extensive coverage.
The photo above is part of the 'river of life' that runs down what used to be the main shopping street of Warrington. Town centre planning has meant that the effective centre has shifted and this once buzzing street is painfully quiet. But if you walk along it, you will see this water feature, around the rim of which are faces of real Warrington people, including Jonathan and Tim, and handprints of children who will now be in their thirties.
At 12:25, the time the bombs exploded, I will pause to remember, and to let that remembering continue to impact my thinking and living.
RIP Jonathan and Tim, hate stole your young lives; love inspired hope from tragedy.