My train arrived at Glasgow Queen Street train station just after 3pm on Monday 22nd December. I was heading home to spend Christmas with my family, and my younger sister and her boyfriend were meeting me at the station.
I arrived to a far different scene from what I had pictured.
Just half an hour earlier a bin lorry had careered out of control down the street outside, killing and injuring pedestrians as they went about their day, right next to the festivities taking place in George Square. I arrived to crowds of anxious, distressed and shocked people, and hundreds of flashing blue lights, and my sister met me with a big hug and quickly told me there had been a terrible accident.
What had been a festive Monday in George Square, three days before Christmas, had turned into a nightmare, with bodies in the street covered with white sheets, and lives forever changed.
6 people lost their lives in the freak accident which appears to have happened due to the driver falling ill at the wheel and having a heart attack or a black out. Another 10 were taken to hospital, some with life-changing injuries. In a moment, these family’s lives would never be the same.
And everyone who was present that day were left with the ‘What if?’ question.
Five minutes before it happened, my sister and her boyfriend had walked along the exact path the lorry took. Had they decided to take a walk around George Square for a bit longer, there is every likelihood they would have been directly in the path of the lorry. What if they had?
I had considered getting the earlier train, having a wander round George Square and doing a bit of shopping in town before heading through to the folks place but I got the train an hour later instead. What if I had got the earlier train?
When tragedy strikes in such a random and sudden way, it is a startling reminder of the fragility of our lives.
You replay the last conversations you had with people, and you find yourself checking Twitter and news websites just in case you know someone who had been affected.
We are left with the ‘What if’ and the ‘It could’ve been me…’ and the poignant ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’.
When I finally got safely back to my family home, I was met at the door by my mum, and she hugged us all a bit tighter and a bit longer than usual. She didn’t have to say it. She did exactly what many a mum would have done that day when their family members arrived home safe, knowing that there were others who would not know that joy that evening.
Glasgow is an incredible city. For all it’s grime and grit, it has a heart of gold. No city comes together quite so beautifully in the midst of tragedy as Glasgow. Within hours, flowers had been laid at the scene. So many, in fact, that the police had to move them to a nearby location. When the accident happened, within moments, people were stopping traffic, helping victims and reaching out to each other in whatever way they could. Having dealt with another horrific accident only a year earlier at the Clutha Bar, when a police helicopter crashed through the roof of a busy bar killing 10 people, the city sadly knows what to do when tragedy strikes.
Glasgow’s people are strong, caring, compassionate, and will support their fellow Glaswegians through whatever comes next.
It’s a hometown I am fiercely proud of.