Saturday 18 August 2018

'I'm not bitter I lost my sight, I'm lucky to be alive' - Omagh bomb attack victim

Claire Bowes, who was injured in the Omagh bomb and now runs Omagh Music Academy. Photo: Peter Morrison
Claire Bowes, who was injured in the Omagh bomb and now runs Omagh Music Academy. Photo: Peter Morrison
The aftermath of the blast in Omagh that killed 29 people. Picture: Reuters

Leona O'Neill

A woman who was blinded as a teenager in the 1998 Omagh bomb attack said she holds no bitterness for those who carried out the atrocity and has had to move on for the sake of her children.

A woman who was blinded as a teenager in the 1998 Omagh bomb attack said she holds no bitterness for those who carried out the atrocity and has had to move on for the sake of her children.

Claire Bowes was 15 when the Real IRA bomb ripped through her home town, killing 29 people, injuring hundreds more, and stealing her sight.

In the last 20 years the mother of three has endured multiple surgeries and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to finish her education, get married, have children and set up the Omagh Music Academy.

She tries not to dwell on the negative as the 20th anniversary of the atrocity looms, but says it is a day she will never forget.

"On the day of the bomb I was doing what a typical 15-year-old would have," said Claire. "I was in the town with my friends. We were just walking about, talking about the teenage disco we had been at the night before, gossiping.

"I remember the bomb going off. I remember my sight going straight away, I was instantly blinded. I don't remember being hit, I couldn't see straight away but I thought that it must be dirt or dust in my eyes. I remember getting up and walking around, not knowing where I was or where I was going. I was dazed. I was taken to hospital."

Claire was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where she learned her sight could not be saved.

"I believe that everything happens for a reason. I couldn't be bitter," she said. "I get frustrated at times and there were times I would have got very upset. Life would be so much easier if I could see. But I am so fortunate that I am still here. I don't hold any grudges and I just try to make the very best of this life I have been given.

"I always try to put a positive slant on it. Yes, what happened should never, ever have happened. But if I let the negativity consume my life, I couldn't move on.

"My two boys know what happened. I let them read an article in the paper last week about me and that led to questions. It will always be a part of their lives. But if I was negative or bitter, what would it be teaching them, the next generation?

"The fact that no one was ever convicted does not weigh heavy on my mind. If I let it, then I couldn't move on. I was 15 when it happened and I'm now 35. I had lots of living to do then and I still have."

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