Recovery

I tried to rescue people but I realised it could be dangerous just digging, not knowing what you were doing and I was getting in the way of people so I immediately switched over to pastoral work … The end of chapter 8 of Romans is a great summary of faith – What can separate us from the love of God – It’s a passage I always use when there’s a personal tragedy or disaster and that’s a message we always try to emphasise – I am certain that nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither death nor life, neither angels or other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future.
Bereaved Baptist minister, speaking in 1996

My work afterwards was more like that of a pastor. People had to face not only grief but bitterness, anger and even guilt. The first real thing that happened were the terrible nightmares people suffered, reliving the event time and time again. That went on for months. There was a terrible worry and pressure on people while the tip was still there, and every time there was a row over what was to be done about the tip my surgery would be full the next day. The stress and anxiety triggered off by what to do would affect people’s health.

It was predicted at the time that a lot of people might suffer from heart attacks brought on by the stress and grief, but that didn’t happen. Other experts predicted that there would be a number of suicides, but that didn’t happen either. These people hadn’t allowed for the resilience of the families involved. It was psychological problems that hit worst.

One thing that did happen within a short time afterwards was that the birth rate went up. Also many people were drinking a lot more and for some time after I had to deal with people who had serious drink problems, and for people who already had health problems, those problems increased.

From the time of the disaster for about the following six years I dealt with people who suffered breakdowns. There was no set pattern or any time when it could be expected to happen. It happened at different times for different people.

After the disaster I warned the community would have to come to accept its guilt. This guilt came out in many ways. There were the so-called guilty men who were blamed for what happened; they suffered themselves and were the victims of a hate campaign. But it wasn’t only them. Women who had sent their children who hadn’t want to go to school that day suffered terrible feelings of guilt. … Grief and guilt came in many different ways. There was a strange bitterness between families who lost children and those who hadn’t; people just could not help it.
Aberfan doctor

I kept asking myself why I hadn’t died and I blamed myself for allowing my brother and sister to die.
Pupil, Pantglas Junior School

I’ve got to say this again, if the papers and the press and the television were to leave us alone in the very beginning I think we could have settled down a lot quicker than what we did.
Bereaved father

… we were a community that were not used to being exposed on television or in papers. We are a community that wears our hearts on our sleeves. We’re quite open and we were only doing in the time after the disaster, as far as I’m concerned, what we’ve always done for years, thrashing out and the press exploded it. The other thing I always felt was that many of the facts that they reported were, and if they kept the facts, were fairly accurate. But it did remind of a scientist who has got a theory and then forces the facts to prove it. But what I wanted them to do was to take the facts and then decide what it told them. And the result was that they were coming in, and I remember more than one interviewing me wanting me to give certain answers,
Bereaved father

We weren’t prepared for it. We weren’t geared up for what was happening. Like the people from the press. They came in. We hadn’t seen any of this, ever, we didn’t know, it’s a different world to us. And they came from all over the place … They were round with their notebooks and their pads and asking all these questions, ‘How are you getting over it?’ You can’t ask me that now, never mind 30 years ago.
Bereaved parent, speaking in 1996

Fragments of the school itself still lie embedded in the rubbish – chunks of green-painted classroom wall…. Even more poignant relics lie in a corner of the buried playground piled haphazardly against a wall – some miniature desks and chairs, evocative as a dead child’s clothes, infant-sized, still showing the shape of their bodies. Among the rubble there also lie crumpled song-books, sodden and smeared with slime, the words of some bed-time song still visible on the pages surrounded by drawings of sleeping elves.

Across the road from the school, and facing up the mountain, stands a row of abandoned houses. This must once have been a trim little working-class terrace, staidly Victorian but especially Welsh, with lace-curtained windows, potted plants in the hall, and a piano in every parlour – until the wave of slag broke against it, smashed the doors and windows, and squeezed through the rooms like toothpaste.
Something has been done to clear them, but not very much. They stand like broken and blackened teeth. Doors sag, windows gape, revealing the devastation within – a crushed piano, some half-smothered furniture. You can step in from the street and walk round the forsaken rooms which still emit an aura of suffocation and panic – floors scattered with letters, coat-hangers on the stairs, a jar of pickles on the kitchen table. The sense of catastrophe and desertion, resembling the choked ruins of Pompeii, hangs in the air like volcanic dust.

….Prettily dressed and beribboned, riding expensive pedal-cars and bicycles, they [surviving children] are an elite, the aristocrats of survival, their lives nervously guarded and also coveted by those who mourn. By luck, chance, and by no choice of their own, they are part of the unhealed scar-tissue of Aberfan.
Laurie Lee, writer, on Aberfan one year on

Of course, we could have lost the boy too. He was on his way up Moy Road when he saw the houses falling towards him. He ran off home; and I couldn’t get a word out of him for months. He had to go to the psychiatrist…. Just wouldn’t talk about it, and wouldn’t mention his sister either. And the two of ‘em worshipped each other. They was always together; slept in the same room, holding hands…. He used to hide when we went to the grave….

Then one night – about four months later it was – we was round at our brother’s place. The boy went outside to the lavatory and I heard him call Dad! Ay, what is it, boy? I said. Come out here! he said. Sure, I said, what’s the matter? It was a beautiful frosty night. He said, Look at that star up there – that’s our Sandie, Dad. Sure, I said, that’s our little Sandie.

The boy’s all right now, and I’m going to see he’s all right…. And I’ll make damn sure he never goes down the pit. He’s not going to grow up daft like me.
Bereaved father talking to Laurie Lee in the pub, 1967

We were a generation that lost out. We lost out on our education and on our futures. I can’t think of any of us who ever did really well and most of just stayed and grew up in the village. We haven’t gone far at all.
Pupil, Pantglas Junior School

In Mount Pleasant school, which was a similar school, I remember vividly the first day going in, I took the remains of the upper part of the school, going into the classroom and sitting down there and outside was a railway line coming from the colliery and a diesel rumbled past, very very slowly, and I can see the looks on the children’s faces and mine. But it turned out alright but the actual shock of getting back to school was enormous and eventually everything went off alright and the children returned to normality.
Teacher, Pantglas Junior School

There was none of the discipline we used to have … We didn’t go out to play for a long time because those who’d lost their own children couldn’t bear to see us. We all knew what they were feeling and we felt guilty about being alive.
Pupil, Pantglas Junior School

As children we never got any sympathy. We were always told we were lucky to be alive. I suppose everybody in the village was so badly affected that nobody had the time to give us any sympathy. At school, though, the teachers treated us differently. It was as if they could not bring themselves to be strict with us. We lost a lot of schooling after the disaster anyway, and most of us never really made it up.
Pupil, Pantglas Junior School

What happened in Aberfan that day was the dark little secret when we were young and it still is. We knew we must not speak out. We have been quiet for the sake of the other people, those who lost children and those who did not want to hear about what happened, especially from the mouths of their own children. … What’s more, the survivors have never spoken to each other about it. Most of us live in the same small village and have grown up together, yet we all kept everything locked away inside ourselves. Here I am, a grown man, tough ex-miner and all that, yet since that day I don’t like the dark. Down the pit was all right as long as I was in company. I made sure I was never alone down there. … When we were young there was almost nobody left. We wandered streets like lost souls.
Pupil, Pantglas Junior School

In those days talking of your emotions was an embarrassment. As a child you felt ashamed to tell someone what you were feeling, even if you were crying. You didn’t want them to know you were crying. I only cried when I’d gone to bed in the evenings. If my mother heard me she would come in to see me, But I couldn’t talk to her about how I felt – and in the morning I would feel embarrassed. In my family we never discussed what had happened. Nothing was said. Just tears and very quiet. It’s the same round here today – people don’t want you to see they’re upset. I’ve never seen my dad to cry, never. When I went to bed I would speak to God. He was the only one I could speak to at the time. You don’t get an answer back but you could feel there’s somebody there. And that’s a comfort. … My Dad was very bitter for years. It was his only son, you see. My mother still won’t talk about that time. She doesn’t want to know. She’s blanked it out. It was the only way she could cope. We always went to church and she turned atheist for a while, which was bad because it meant she had no comfort anywhere. But she started to believe again and I think it has given her back her strength.
Pupil, Pantglas Junior School

We couldn’t talk about the loss for some time. Our boy was only seven. It threw our family life completely off-balance. [My wife] was breaking down all the time. What can you say? You feel so helpless. You sit there and you can’t do a thing.
Bereaved father

It gives you a respect for living. You’re thankful just to be here and all my friends seem to be very placid, I never argue with people. We seem to be different, for I never discuss the disaster with friends – I think you do tend to wipe it out.
Pupil, Pantglas Junior School

Today, when a disaster happens, you bring in people who are trained counsellors to help the victims’ families cope. But the counselling in Aberfan then was done by the community itself. That true Welshness, the sense of belonging and togetherness, came to the fore then.
Detective Constable

By every statistic, patients seen, prescriptions written, deaths, I can prove that this is a village of excessive sickness. And the cause is obvious. … Psychiatrists came and wrote “Aberfan needs no help”. Now they come to study what grief did to us. Nowhere else has grief been so concentrated. Lockerbie, Zeebrugge, King’s Cross – everywhere they used the lessons this place taught them.
Aberfan Doctor

For many years after the disaster if I was sitting in an enclosed room and a jet aeroplane would approach I would absolutely quake and shiver until it had gone and actually feel the nerves running through my body. I think it also affected my driving as well. I was very aware of the environment and dangers in the environment. But gradually over the years it sort of disappeared and now I’m all right I can rationalise a jet aeroplane.
Teacher, Pantglas Junior School

As far as we’re concerned now, we’ve still got two boys. We’re only separated for a time. One day we’re going to meet. The parting and the loneliness and being without him is terrible, but it’s not for ever.
Bereaved Baptist minister, speaking in 1996

***

Rev Kenneth Hayes of the Baptist Chapel lost a son in the disaster. He had a small congregation that morning, less than twenty including four children. There were reporters present complete with cameras. Mr Hayes wept openly in the pulpit and the service included the hymn:

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast
There, by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark ! ‘tis the voice of angels,
Borne in a song to me.
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea.

16,467 comments on “Recovery

  1. Hello, I do think your web site could possibly be having browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in I.E., it’s got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that, excellent blog!

  2. Can I just say what a relief to find an individual who really knows what they are discussing online. You definitely realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people really need to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular because you surely possess the gift.

  3. He was just walking round the shop, looking at all the different books, when he noticed a small collection of books on the part of England that he came from, Warwickshire.It’s also an excellent site. I will always visit this place. thank you so much.

  4. Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I?d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don?t mind. Natually I?ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I?d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don?t mind. Natually I?ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hello! I could have sworn Iíve been to this site before but after browsing through a few of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím certainly happy I stumbled upon it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

  7. Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I?d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don?t mind. Natually I?ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I blog often and I truly appreciate your content. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your website and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.

  9. You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  10. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  11. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you need to write more on this subject matter, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people don’t discuss these subjects. To the next! Best wishes!!

  12. There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment?s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  13. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be useful to read through content from other writers and practice something from their web sites.

  14. I really love your blog.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you develop this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím looking to create my own personal blog and would like to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you!

  15. Right now it sounds like Movable Type is the best blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  16. Hello! I could have sworn Iíve visited this site before but after browsing through many of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyhow, Iím certainly delighted I stumbled upon it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back often!

  17. Thanks for all of your work on this blog. Kim takes pleasure in working on investigation and it’s easy to see why. My spouse and i learn all of the compelling manner you create functional items via this web site and therefore welcome participation from other ones about this subject so our girl has always been understanding a lot. Have fun with the rest of the year. You’re the one doing a pretty cool job.

  18. Hello, I believe your web site could be having browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Other than that, excellent blog!

  19. Do you have a spam problem on this blog; I also am a blogger, and I was curious about your situation; we have developed some nice practices and we are looking to swap solutions with other folks, please shoot me an email if interested.

  20. There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment?s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  21. There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment?s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  22. Howdy, I do think your blog may be having browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it’s got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Besides that, great site!

  23. Iím impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog thatís both equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.

  24. Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Looking through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this information to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a great read. Many thanks for sharing!

  25. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  26. Having read this I believed it was very informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

  27. Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody who actually is aware of what theyre speaking about on the internet. You undoubtedly know tips on how to convey an issue to mild and make it important. More folks have to learn this and understand this side of the story. I cant consider youre no more well-liked since you definitely have the gift.

  28. I’m more than happy to find this great site. I need to to thank you for your time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely liked every bit of it and I have you book marked to look at new information on your site.

  29. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  30. Right here is the right site for anyone who wishes to understand this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You certainly put a new spin on a subject that’s been discussed for decades. Wonderful stuff, just great!

  31. Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It is the little changes that make the most significant changes. Many thanks for sharing!

  32. There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment?s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  33. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t disappoint me just as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, however I really thought you would have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you can fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

  34. I simply could not go away your site before suggesting that I extremely loved the usual info a person supply in your visitors? Is gonna be again frequently to check out new posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *