Three small, bewildered children held hands behind the coffins of their mother and baby sister Tuesday as hundreds turned out to bury the first victims of the bloodiest guerrilla attack in Northern Ireland's violent history.
Dressed in their best clothes, the surviving children of Avril Monaghan walked with relatives bearing her coffin and a tiny white casket containing the body of 18-month-old Maura to the hilltop Catholic church in this village near Omagh.Avril Monaghan, 30, who was expecting twins next month, had been on a shopping trip to Omagh on Saturday with daughter Maura and her 65-year-old mother Mary Grimes. The three family members caught the full force of the blast that killed 28 people.
The wailing of babies inside the church pierced the silence as mourners struggled to come to terms with the loss of three generations of one family, victims of a bloody conflict many hoped had ended with the signing in April of a peace accord.
Father Laurence Dawson asked the 300 mourners inside the church and scores more listening outside to pray for "Avril as she takes her little angel Maura with her to heaven."
He asked God to "begin the healing process" in the rural community in and around Omagh where Catholics and Protestants have lived side by side for years in relative harmony.
Monaghan leaves behind a husband and three children under the age of 5. Her mother will be buried separately.
Catholic priest Father Gerrard McAleer, told reporters the family was devastated.
"I was there last night. The silence was so eerie. There was not a word spoken . . . People were just hugging, comforting each other.
"I hope this is the end of the long litany of murder endured for 30 years," said McAleer.
Britain's Prince Charles was to visit Omagh later Tuesday to meet some of the 220 injured survivors and to talk to nurses, doctors and ambulance staff involved in rescue work.
More than 100 victims are still in the hospital, eight of them in critical condition, hospital staff said.