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Putting a Face on N.Ireland Victims

August 16, 1998

OMAGH, Northern Ireland (AP) _ A grandmother, her pregnant daughter and her 18-month-old granddaughter.

A mother of four buying a school uniform for her youngest girl.

Three young boys from the Irish Republic traveling with a 12-year-old Spanish student as part of an exchange program, and the 24-year-old teacher leading them.

All lay in the British army barracks in the Northern Ireland city of Omagh on Sunday, alongside the rest of the 28 civilians slain _ in some cases mutilated or burned beyond recognition _ by a 500-pound car bomb.

The attack Saturday was the province’s single worst terrorist atrocity.

On the west side of downtown, where a caller falsely claimed the bomb had been planted, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist churches filled with stunned worshippers on Sunday.

Some bore bandages themselves from shrapnel wounds. All prayed for their dead and maimed neighbors.

At Sacred Heart Catholic church, some parishioners cradled their heads in their hands after the Rev. Michael Keveney told them that a member in her 20s, Geraldine Breslin, had died overnight in a Belfast hospital.

Amateur video footage of the blast’s aftermath captured survivors gasping in the smoky haze, spattered with blood. Some stood in dazed silence, others searched frantically for relatives lost momentarily _ or forever blown away.

``It was the nearest thing to a horror movie I’ve ever witnessed,″ said barber Damien Turbitt, who escaped injury but had his business destroyed.

Mary Grimes, 65, her daughter Avril Monaghan, 30 _ who was pregnant with twins _ and her granddaughter, Maura, all of whom lived in outlying towns, were visiting Omagh to shop when the bomb exploded. They died together.

Kevin Skelton said his wife of 20 years, Philomena, and their three daughters also were shopping _ for a school uniform for the youngest, 13-year-old Shauna _ while he browsed in a neighboring store. Their 16-year-old son was fishing.

After the explosion, Skelton ran outside.

``My wife was lying on top of the rubble. She was face down and the clothes had been blown off her,″ said Skelton, 43, who felt her wrist to confirm that she was dead.

His two older daughters escaped uninjured, he said, but Shauna suffered a broken jaw.

The Spanish exchange students had been studying English for the past month in Donegal, in the northwest corner of the Irish Republic. They made a day trip Sunday across the border with some Irish students to visit the Ulster-American Folk Park near Omagh and some decided afterwards to shop in town.

The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs identified the dead as Francisco Blasco Baselga, 12, and Rocio Abad Ramos, 24. Eleven other Spanish students were injured, police said.

Omagh resident Tommy Logue had to wait until Sunday morning to learn that his daughter Brenda had been killed.

``I knew all along that she was dead,″ he said, his voice breaking. ``The front of the shop where I knew her to be was completely blown out _ nobody could survive that.″

Beyond the dead were tales of life-shattering injuries. Omagh resident Lindsay Hall, a Protestant, wiped tears from his face as he looked at pictures of his son Alastair, a rugby enthusiast whose leg was blown off.

``Alastair loved playing, but he will never be able to again now,″ Hall said. ``He’s only 12. I’m 57. Why couldn’t it have happened to me?″

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