Issue Monday morning

As told by Paul Firth

I went down to the city centre yesterday. I don’t do this very often and certainly not on a Monday morning. But I went because I knew I would meet plenty of friends there. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I met my old friend from school who had avoided being there on the day because it was his son’s sixth birthday and the boy had chosen a party at home in Nottinghamshire. (By the way, happy thirtieth birthday, Nick.) I met another old friend from school, who had a lucky escape by a route only a very few were able to use. And I met my old friend from my very first job, whose duties had taken him elsewhere a few minutes earlier.

And then I met some more recent friends, like the one who had told me how he tried to help his father; the one who had so expertly treated my own father-in-law and hundreds of others; and one of life’s true heroes, the modest man who ‘just did what anyone would have done’ and saved lives without thinking of his own safety.

I couldn’t go last year. I’d come out of hospital just two days previously and could barely walk. But I’m sure there were more people, young and old, than there had been two years back. Those of us who can truly remember have all aged by the same twenty four years. I hope the youngsters were as inspired by the club chaplain as I was and will continue to pay there own respects for years to come.

The weather was a slightly stronger version of the day itself. The sun shone more brightly and more consistently and a little earlier in the day. But there was the same easterly wind, maybe blowing a touch more fiercely, so that it would have sent the flames back into the stand more quickly. And, of course, just like on the day itself, it meant that a coat came in handy. But not quite as handy as come coats were back then.

I liked the trumpeter, even if his rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was less than flawless. I still prefer ‘Abide With Me’, even if I can’t get past the first verse without crying.

And I don’t mind if we get less publicity than other memorial services. This is about us remembering our own, being grateful we survived and leaning on each other once again for mutual support. We have no bitterness, but we have enormous strength.

Maybe next year there will be even more friends there, even greater strength. I hope to be there, even on a Tuesday morning.