HUNGERFORD marked the 30th anniversary of the town’s shooting tragedy with a poignant memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony on Sunday.
As late summer sunshine streamed into a packed St Lawrence Church, the present incumbent, the Rev Mike Saunders, welcomed a congregation that included civic dignitaries and some of the relatives of the 16 killed and 15 seriously wounded by Michael Ryan on August 19, 1987.
He then introduced a familiar face to many – the Rev David Salt, whose job it had been to comfort a stunned and grieving community in the dreadful aftermath.
Mr Salt told the congregation that suffering was part of the human condition, saying: “This week I was reminded of the division of Pakistan and India and how millions of people were displaced and hundreds brutally killed.”
He also touched upon the recent terrorist attacks in Finland and Spain, before preaching a message of hope.
Mr Salt said: “When the tragedy struck, I was overwhelmed by the help the congregation offered.
“Believe it or not we suddenly became alive as a church.”
He said: “Our purpose was made quite clear, we didn’t need decisions and resolutions from the PCC [parochial church council].
“We had a common vision; to help as best we could.
“We have seen this community spirit replicated in the tragedy at Grenfell Tower.
“Always we are reminded, day by day, that none of us can escape the frailty of our humanity and what man can do to man.”
Mr Saunders thanked his colleague for his sermon and added: “This town has more community spirit than anywhere I’ve lived.
“God has brought good from great evil.”
After the service, civic leaders, police and some of those whose loved ones were killed or injured in the shootings gathered at the town’s tragedy memorial to lay wreathes.
Those doing so included relatives, town mayor Keith Knight and his deputy, Helen Simpson, Constable of the Town and Manor, Ellie Dickins, Thames Valley Police on behalf of their fallen colleague, Pc Roger Brereton, West Berkshire Council chairman Quentin Webb (Con, Bucklebury) and Jack Williams on behalf of the Royal British Legion.
Among those looking on as the names of the victims were read out was Ron Tarry, who was mayor at the time and who shouldered the task, in the days, months and years that followed, of fielding often intrusive calls from the world’s media.
Giving a final blessing, Mr Saunders said he hoped the 30th anniversary memorial would go some way to giving closure and healing the wounds of the past.