1987 was the year I received terrible news, and learned at the tender age of 7 and three-quarters, the harsh reality of life: we don’t live forever. My best friend back then was Andrew Dockrill and he along with his mother and sister went on holiday in Europe. I don’t know where they went, I was too young to remember, but none of them returned. They were among the 193 that perished in the disaster when the Herald of Free Enterprise collapsed just off the coast of Zeebrugge.
I remember during break-time, Andrew and me would sit on a bench in front of the bike sheds in the playground, and chat about our favourite cartoon, The Chuckle Hounds. On that day, 6th March, I remember looking around the room while the class was told of the tragedy and how Andrew wouldn’t be coming home. Some of my class mates cried. I couldn’t I told myself, ‘I must be strong for them.’ Most looked my way, knowing how close we were, and I was true to my word. It wasn’t until I got home did my cheeks run with sorrow.
For many, swimming classes were a lot of fun. I would get into the pool, swim to the other side and when I turned to come back, found Andrew not with me but sitting on the side, crying. I never knew what was wrong exactly, but he was my best friend and I wasn’t going to let him sit up there alone. I swam back to where I had started, climbed out of the pool and sat next to him. I’m not sure what we talked about, but soon tears were forgotten and we’d giggle and laugh, most likely about the Chuckle Hounds, or some cartoon or other we’d seen.
What I still wonder, and what harrowed me for many nights after, was whether Andrew had an inner sense, a foreboding of what was to come.
The commemorative tree at Abbott’s Hall School planted for Andrew and his sister Emma, plus Mark Lenox (whom I did not know). I played my part and helped dig a portion of the ground, along with any of my classmates who wanted to be a part of the momentous occasion. It still stands there today.
Charles F Bond is writer of fantasy and paranormal fiction. He wishes you much merriment in the pursuit of good reading.
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