Hundreds of voices sang out during a sombre Monday morning assembly at Enniskillen High School on November 9, 1987, the day after the IRA bombing in the town which killed 11 people and injured 63.
There were children on crutches, some had bruised faces, one was wearing a neck brace, while many of them along with teachers wiped away tears. Yet, amid the heartache, they stood side by side united in grief and in song.
“Make me a channel of your peace,” they cried.
“Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope, where there is darkness, only light.”
But it was difficult to overcome a darkness that was so dense and sinister a day after the atrocity which had left Principal Ronnie Hill in a coma, Vice Principal Graham Ross’ 15-year-old son Stephen seriously injured and many current and former pupils and their parents suffering from bereavement and injury.
Vic Outram, who went home from school that previous Friday as a geography teacher and vice principal returned that day as acting principal, charged with having to steer the school through a most turbulent time.
Before the morning assembly Mr. Outram, then 40 years old, met the staff who were still reeling from the news and together they agreed to “keep things as normal as possible under the circumstances.”
“It was a terrible tragedy,” he told The Impartial Reporter. 
“The main focus was to lend support to the children.”
There wasn’t a word when Mr. Outram took to the podium as 600 pupils looked to him for answers.
“I outlined to the children what I knew of the injuries sustained by pupils and parents, they were very quiet. I told them that any time during the day they could talk to any member of staff.”
Archdeacon Cecil Pringle, in his role as Chairman of the Board of Governors, joined him for that assembly. He praises the “terrific support” he gave at such a difficult time.
“We said a prayer, children were crying,” recalled former teacher Toni Johnson, who was in charge of pastoral care.
“No one knew what to do or what to say to the children,” she said.
At break time, Mrs. Johnson, then 48, was on duty in the hall when the full horror of the atrocity hit her.
“These sad children,” she said, “whose heads were filled with horror and whose ears were ringing with the sound of screaming and of silence.”
The silence, recalled former history teacher Gillian Wilson (formerly Lee), was deafening. She was just 32 at the time.
“There were hundreds of children sitting in the assembly hall in silence, among those mute white faces were many whose images went all over the world.
“The children looked to us for answers, we had none,” she said.
“The only thing we could do was try and make them feel safe inside the building.”
But that was not easy when a number of fake bomb warnings were phoned into the school in the months following the attack. Each time the police had to be called and the building evacuated.
The week that followed the bomb was particularly difficult for the school as dozens of reporters from national newspapers and television networks arrived.
“One of the biggest problems we faced was the press,” said Mr. Outram.
“I am not talking about the local press, I am talking about national dailies and television. They were extremely demanding, intrusive and had no thought for what we had to do.
“We made a decision with the staff to keep the press out, they weren’t helping,” he said.
However, Mr. Outram did make one exception; he permitted a film company to make a short report featuring Stephen Ross’ form class sending him their best wishes.
“I allowed to them to do that because I thought it would help his morale,” he said.
He commends the teaching staff at the time, led by Mrs. Johnson, who asked pupils to write down their thoughts, those words are still as striking three decades later.
“We did not know so much then, you don’t have rehearsals for events like this,” said Mrs. Johnson.
“I saw a flash of light,” wrote one pupil, “I felt something like a wind and then I heard a bang and thick black dust came all around us and the bricks and glass came flying through the air towards us. Then I saw a brick coming towards me and it hit me on the side of the neck.”
There were no support mechanisms in place for post traumatic stress disorder or counselling services for pupils like this one, but instinctively, said Mrs. Wilson, “we knew something had to be done to help those children deal with what they had seen and were feeling.”
“As a staff, as a school we had to go forward with gut instinct,” said Mr. Outram.
“You have a job to do and people to try and support, you just get on with it,” he said.
That meant being there for the very many pupils who suffered in the time ahead, including the young girl who was absent from school for two weeks with hearing problems caused by the blast and was left traumatised, crying, grinding her teeth, and even gnawing through a gum shield intended to protect her teeth.
“She looked sad all the time, she cried if you spoke to her about the event, she felt guilty,” said Mrs. Johnson.
At the time the school had been involved in a project which linked schools in Northern Ireland with schools in the Republic of Ireland and in England. Messages of condolence poured in from Coventry, Birmingham, Southport and counties Westmeath, Kilkenny and Tipperary.
“For pupils and staff in those schools we were not just an item on the news,” said Mrs. Wilson.
Mr. Outram was concerned that the bomb “would harm the relationship within the community” but was touched by the support he received from many people of different backgrounds and many schools in the area. He pays tribute to trauma expert David Bolton and Michael Murphy of the Western Education and Library Board for their help and support.
And he still recalls, with a mixture of sadness and pride, the day when the school community came together as one.
“It was such a sad event and we were if you’d like to use the expression flying by the seat of our pants, hoping against hope that we were coping under the circumstances.
“And while we may not have got everything right I think, by and large, we did get through a difficult time,” he said.
As the children and teachers sang out on that life changing November morning: “To be understood as to understand... to be loved as to love with all my soul.”
NEED HELP? Call Lifeline: 0808 808 8000 if you need confidential support services and advice.