Script - Canon Noel Battye - Saturday 21st October 2017
It was probably the first national disaster I can remember, 51 years ago today, just as pupils of Pontyglas Junior School at Aberfan in Wales were about to get down to their morning lessons the school was engulfed by a moving slag heap that claimed 144 lives – 116 of them children.
It seemed like a latter day Pompeii focussed on the young.
In one classroom 14 bodies were found suffocated while outside, mothers struggling in the mud clamoured for their children. The deputy headteacher was found dead, clutching five children in his arms, as if protecting them. A woman whose son was killed went into labour when she heard the news...
The list went on, underlining the fact that all such tragedies, whether in Wales in 1966, or more recently as successive tragedies like Grenfell Tower and the Las Vegas shootings replace each other in the headlines it is never simply a matter of numbers killed, but each an individual tragedy, for ever etched on the memory of those closest.
No wonder that those caught up in the world’s most horrific tragedies, whether in war or peace, can never find words to give expression to their pain, and that no response on the part of others is more eloquent than silence.
No wonder it is often said that in the face of sorrow, the best we can sometimes do apart from praying alone is to sit in companionable silence, alongside those in grief rather than give empty expression to that which can never be expressed.
Lord of the morning, in whose presence no words are needed, we bring before you in this time of stillness, those who need your peace.
We ask it in your name. Amen.