Jenny McMahon Feb 2014

Jenny McMahon: What Survivors for Peace means to me

March 5, 2014 | admin


Jenny McMahon is ex WRAC (Womens Royal Army Corp) and a survivor of the M62 coach bomb in 1974. Jenny has been involved with the Survivors for Peace Programme since 2009

I first made contact with The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace in 2009 when they were ‘searching for survivors of the M62 coach bomb 1974. Mo Norton, whose brother Terence Griffin died in the coach bomb, had campaigned for a new memorial at Hartshead Moor to remember those who lost their lives. Mo wanted to inform not only the bereaved families, but also give the survivors the opportunity to attend the Rededication of the Memorial, if they so wished. I had two weeks notice of the 35th Anniversary and Rededication Memorial to be held on 4th Feb at Hartshead Moor on the M62.

I was determined to attend the Commemoration Service and to pay my respects to those who died and support the bereaved families. It was a very moving and emotional time for all. I met some of the bereaved families, other survivors, the coach driver (now sadly deceased), a couple who were travelling behind the coach when the bomb went off; the policeman who came with me in the ambulance to hospital – he was specifically looking for me and remembered my name from 35 years before! Up until this time I had never met anyone else who was affected by the coach bomb, 35 years had passed by. The Foundation for Peace played a big part in helping Mo Norton to arrange the Rededication Memorial Service and search for survivors and bereaved families and others who witnessed the atrocity.

After the Memorial Service I was invited to attend the Peace Centre in Warrington set up by Colin and Wendy Parry and since then have attended various events in the Survivors for Peace Programme. I have had the privilege of meeting others who have had similar experiences and been given the opportunity of telling their own personal account of how they have been affected by terrorist activity. All have a different story but with a common theme, very inspirational, moving, humble, some very tragic.

 The Foundation for Peace Centre and The Survivors for Peace Programme is unique in how it functions and is the ONLY  specialised charity of its kind in the UK helping those who have been affected by terrorism in whatever capacity. This includes bereaved families, survivors, colleagues, emergency services, witnesses and bystanders.

Jo Dover the Programme Manager from inception probably knows everyone who has been to the Peace Centre, knows what they went through, how it has affected their lives and seen many come out the other side. If the Survivors for Peace ceases to function all the energy Colin, Wendy, Jo and supporting team will have been lost and all their hard work, dedication, commitment will be wasted. This is unacceptable. It is imperative that this very successful and unique programme continues for the foreseeable future and beyond, not just to help those affected in the past, but also those going through similar process now and those who inevitably will do in the future.

 Memories: Fortunately for me I went on to help other Servicemen and Women injured in the Northern Ireland conflict , Mainland bombings and the Falklands War, initially as a Remedial Gymnast (Exercise Therapy) and latterly as a Physiotherapist whilst I was still serving in the Women’s Royal Army Corps. I would have to focus on their needs and not mine, but I did know and understand what they were going through with the effects of terrorism. I would not normally discuss my own personal experience with patients. Over twenty years later I realised I had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but didn’t know it at the time. It was not something discussed and so never received treatment or counselling for PTSD. I seemed to manage and got through without professional help which I have always put down to being involved with my patients.

As a civilian Physiotherapist I worked at the Joint Services Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court where again I would focus on the need of my patients, many who had suffered with horrendous injuries, including Double and Triple Amputees; Multi-trauma; and Complex Trauma sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan: a challenge for both patients and therapists.  

I would always give my patients the time and opportunity to tell their story, no matter how many times they repeated it. It is very important to have your voice heard and the opportunity to express your personal feelings, emotions, anger, and symptoms of PTSD.

As the years go by your emotions often become deep rooted and buried. Although I listened to other peoples tragic stories I wouldn’t normally be able to talk about my own. Bombs were still going off in the UK and abroad and you would shudder and shrink when hearing it on the news. I personally felt very vulnerable and continuously looking over my shoulder and suspicious of any packages and luggage. I would sometimes say to a colleague I had been involved in an IRA bomb several years previously. They would look at me as if I was mad!! That would be the end of the conversation so I never really got to tell my story for over 30 years.

 There is a special bond when meeting other people affected by terrorism. If it hadn’t been for the Peace Centre and Mo Norton I would never have had the opportunity of telling my story, and meeting others who I didn’t know back in 1974.

Through the F4P I have also recently been in touch with an ex patient who was shot in the spine in NI in 1982. How amazing is that?

 Jo Dover and her Team are extremely supportive and very much aware of the needs of each Individual attending the Survivors for Peace programme and respond appropriately. The specialised professional approach, and caring attitude is paramount. It is essential this unique and invaluable charity continues for the benefit of everyone affected by war, conflict and terrorism.

 Jenny McMahon

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