The humanity of the brave

Every day, it passes over where I work and where I live.

Twelve tonne of aluminum and titanium and engineering. A veritable truck in the sky.

Carrying 100 tonnes of bravery and character.

Something which if you met on the road would make you pull over, yet it hovers above us, like an iron eagle.

Steered carefully into place, it veers over the city and carefully and slowly makes its way down onto the landing pad where it plays its role in saving lives. Every time it takes to the air, it makes a difference to someone.

It flies, and someone else lives. Bringing help to vulnerable people; bringing vulnerable people to help.

Reminding us that they are more than just pilots; they are medics, engineers, technicians, rescuers, and above all human. All rolled into one.

Because that is what they have to represent to us all. People who are more than just any one of those professions.

On that morning almost one year ago, we woke to the terrible news. That what had happened had done so in the lost hours of our existence; when the country is asleep and when we assume that all is right with the world. The time when the rest of us can rest our heads and assume that all others do so.

But tragedy and misfortune does not keep a timetable or work office hours. It does not care for the discommoding of those who mind us.

These are the hours in which the heroes become so.

It is a role that does not belong to the fainthearted, but to the brave.

A year is almost upon us since the terrible tragedy of Rescue 116 in Blacksod Bay. A year of pain for the families of Ciarán, Dara, Mark, and Paul. A year not made any easier by the passage of time. Every day, every hour, they are missed by their families. Every room in each of their homes contains a reminder of their absence; a testament to the shocking reality that one year ago, they walked among us. There is not a moment that their families forget that they are no longer around to talk to, to call, to share the mundanities of life.

For these families, they are changed forever.

And at the same time, there are families all around the country who have family members alive and well because of the bravery of Crew 116.

As we reflect the loss of that brave crew, let us never forget that they were out there representing us, no less than if they were Jonny Sexton. They truly represented all that is good about mankind as they left their base that dark night on a mission to help. And yet, if they had returned safely to their beds the next morning, we would probably have never heard of the task they were deployed to fulfil.

Because this is what they do.

And the same applies to all of our emergency services. We hear of what they do at times of crisis when what they do makes the news. This morning as you read this, there are fire crews, lifeboat personnel, gardai, ambulance crew, medical teams who are recovering from a night of extraordinary achievements that we will never get to hear about.

The hardware deployed in the saving of lives is complex and durable. It has to be hardy and complicated to withstand the terrain in which our heroes find themselves day after day, night after night. In the next decade, we will see the use of drone technology in situations which now require human deployment. Maybe they will take some of the risk out of the job they do, but they will never replace the need for bravery and endeavour.

It is but a small consolation to the families of the crew of Rescue 116 and RNLI hero Caitriona Lucas that they perished, risking their lives so that we could live ours. That in dying, they highlighted the dangers and bravery of the work they did.

Every time, I hear that Sikorsky fly overhead now, I am reminded of the crew of Rescue 116; let them be remembered forever when we look to the skies and hear those blades whir.

And let us extend that thought to every time we hear a siren of an ambulance or a garda car or a fire crew. Think of the humanity that lies behind that flashing blue light, those whirring rotorblades, that speeding ambulance.

Spare a thought for the families of the departed from 116. There is an emptiness in all their hearts this week that can be helped in a small way by our taking the time to appreciate the role they played in our country. Heroes forever.


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