March 18, 1996 in Nation/World

Britain Mourns Children Queen Attends Scottish Service For Murdered Children, Teacher

Los Angeles Times

At 9:30 a.m. on its saddest Mother’s Day, a nation stopped to remember the unforgettable.

Across Britain on Sunday, one minute of national silence mourned 16 first-graders and their teacher, shot to death by a madman at gym class Wednesday morning. Here in this Scottish village, the stillness screamed.

Later, a short, straight-backed woman who is the symbol of the British state and a society prideful of its civility came to comfort Dunblane. Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by her daughter, Princess Anne, wore a purple hat and coat, long black boots and a carefully composed mask of grief. It slipped when she met bereaved parents.

“The visibly distressed queen spoke of the collective grief and profound sympathy felt for them by the entire country,” a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said.

The queen visited teachers and medical workers at a 700-year-old Gothic cathedral where the Rev. Colin McIntosh promised tearful worshipers that there is room for hope beyond despair - even for Dunblane, a city in shock since Thomas Hamilton walked into school with four handguns, shooting 28 children and three teachers before killing himself.

“The people of Dunblane need time to heal together, and space to support each other. … And the chance to speak of their sadness in the way they must. Silence and space, and time. These, I think, are our needs at this moment. And not an explanation,” said the canon of the dun sandstone centerpiece of this affluent Scottish village of 7,300.

Overflow mourners stood bare-headed in an icy drizzle on the green, green grass of the cathedral graveyard. They held hands. Many seemed numb. Others were angry.

“Even grown-ups don’t understand,” McIntosh told children at the service. “Our only comfort lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that our children should die, that in those fatal, frightening moments in the school gym, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.”

After visiting some of the bereaved at the cathedral, the queen and princess added their remembrances to a carpet of flowers hundreds of feet long outside the grounds of Dunblane Primary School. The queen left a spray of pink and yellow flowers, Anne a bunch of snowdrops picked from her garden.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email