In 1996 I was 17 years of age and in 6th year at McLaren High School in my hometown of Callander in Stirling, Scotland. I remember that final year of high school being unique from all the rest. I took classes that were different from what I’d previously studied, like Music and Modern Studies… things I was interested in rather than classes I need to get into University. Free study periods were built into our days, and we were treated with a greater respect by both the students and teachers. I was deputy head girl which came with both extra responsibilities and privileges.
Wednesday March 13th 1996 started out like any other, but quickly turned into a day I’ll never forget. News spread fast that morning about an incident at nearby Dunblane Primary School and our school was also thrown into turmoil. I don’t recall if we actually went into full lockdown that day (I’m not sure if I had even ever heard that term before), but it was certainly confusing, upsetting and very scary. Teachers were dazed – some of them had children attending Dunblane. People were sobbing in the hallways and in the cafeteria. There was a tension during class time between wanting to carry on as normal or turning on the TV and seeing things unfolding via news casts.
As more details emerged and I was at home with my family, my Mum realised that she had studied with the teacher who had been injured but not killed. We weren’t directly affected by this tragedy, but the ripples of sadness and compassion flooded all the neighbouring communities.
In the days and weeks that followed the world’s eyes were focused on Dunblane. I went to the beautiful, flower filled Dunblane Cathedral and signed a book of condolence. The memorials and funerals came and went. The Snowdrop Campaign was mounted and eventually led to the UK introducing some of the strictest gun laws in the world. We wouldn’t ever let this happen again.
The last few months of high school were tinged with sadness. My 6th year studies English class saw an outpouring of essays, short stories and poems influenced by the tragedy. The only song I have ever written, for the composition component of Higher Music, was a lullaby. A lullaby to 16 young children who were now gone. I wept as I wrote it.
As I tucked my children, aged 6 and 7, into bed tonight I remembered that lullaby and the 20th anniversary of the horrific tragedy that inspired it.