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The lost pupils of Omagh

The tragedy has cast a dark shadow over local schools. Carmel McQuaid reports.

HEADTEACHER Bill Harper this week had to decide whether to post the GCSE results to the grief-stricken parents of Alan Radford, the 17-year-old killed in the Omagh bombing.

"There are no manuals to tell you what to do in a situation like this," he said.

Alan was one of two pupils at Omagh High School who died in the blast. The other, Lorraine Wilson, 15, was working in an Oxfam shop and took the full force of the bomb.

She died beside a friend, Samantha McFarland, who had left Omagh High last year. Mr Harper still has a letter she sent him a year ago. It runs: "Just a small note to say thank you to you and your staff for my enjoyable time at Omagh High School."

Two former pupils also died - Esther Gibson, 36, a Sunday school teacher and Deborah Cartwright, 20, remembered for her enthusiasm for cross-community projects at school.

Mr Harper said: "If you are a teacher, you devote your life to the benefit of your pupils and you try to make a better future for them. But these pupils have been cut off, without any future at all."

Another victim, Jolene Marlow, a Loreto Convent pupil, was waiting to get her A-level results. She already had an offer to study physiotherapy at the University of Ulster. She had sat her GCSEs a year early and obtained A and B grades in every subject.

Jolene also had a Saturday job and had left the shop where she worked to watch the street being evacuated during the bomb scare.

Roddy Tierney, the principal of Omagh's Christian Brothers grammar school, described the aftermath as "a traumatic time for staff and students". One pupil, Desmond Conway, who took his GCSEs this year, lost his brother, Gareth, in the massacre.

"We are conscious that so many of our 940 students will be affected either directly or indirectly by this awful tragedy," Mr Tierney said.

Another secondary school, Dean Brian Maguire in Carrickmore, is mourning Brenda Logue, 17, who was due to return to complete the second year of an advanced GNVQ. On a shopping trip with her mother and grandmother, she died after going outside during the bomb scare to find out what was happening. Her father searched for her for hours.

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