The people of Creeslough smiled through their pain tonight as they turned on their Christmas lights.
An explosion at the local Applegreen Service Station which claimed the lives of ten of its villagers is still enshrined in the memory of the local community and will be for many generations to come.
But tonight locals from the 400 strong population came out from their homes to watch the village’s Christmas lights being switched on.
The honour of the official switch-on fell to local athlete Caolan McFadden.
The 16-year-old recently claimed the National Cross Country Under 16 title in nearby Rosapenna and declared “I had to win this. This is for Creeslough.”
Those words resonated with locals, so much so that they asked the young Cranford AC athlete to officially start the village’s countdown to Christmas Day by switching on the Christmas lights.
Caolan was accompanied by his parents Danny and Terri McFadden.
The young athlete said he was honoured to be asked to turn on the village’s Christmas lights.
And he added “I think it is important to remember all those who lost their lives in this awful tragedy here on October 7th. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families this evening.”
Local priest Fr John Joe Duffy, who will be forever linked with the tiny village having officiated over the majority of the ten funerals, could not making the occasion due to a prior engagement.
However, Reverend Cannon David Skuce, the local Church of Ireland rector, spoke about the sadness of the occasion.
He referred to the twelve candles which were contained in a special glass case at the scene of the switching on of the lights.
Ten of the candles were in memory of the ten people who lost their lives in the tragedy, another was for all the sick of the parish and the last for all those who died in the parish during the year.
He also led those who gathered in a minute’s silence for all those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
Among those who gathered for the switching on of the village’s festive lights were some of the families of those who perished in the tragedy.
Their names will be forever linked to the awful tragedy which struck the village at 3.20pm on the Friday afternoon of October 7th – James O’Flaherty (48), Jessica Gallagher (24), Martin McGill (49), Catherine O’Donnell (39) and her son James Monaghan (13), Hugh Kelly (59), Martina Martin (49), Robert Garwe (50), Shauna Flanagan Garwe (5) and Leona Harper (14).
As well as the village being illuminated, Santa also brought a smile to the faces of the many children who turned out in the freezing December cold.
He arrived on a horse-drawn carriage to huge excitement and handed out presents to all the children who gathered.
The lights were sponsored by Maureen McFadden, a local resident now based in New York, who gathered the funds along with other ex-patriots.
As the ceremony ended and the children milled around with great excitement clutching their presents from Santa, rain began to fall on the village.
Christmas songs rang out from a loud-speaker as parents gathered their children to bring them to the safety of their homes.
Creeslough has had many sad days evenings since October 7th bit tonight was a time when there was something to smile about as Christmas peeks its head around the corner.