the final chapter.
I woke up suddenly, as though a loud noise had pushed me out of my dreaming state. The room was quiet, and dark except for bright flickering lights behind my curtains. Setting my feet on the ground I walked over to the window on unsteady legs. There were faint voices but I didn’t know the cause until after opening the curtain. There in the morning light were columns of smoke rolling into the air over a part of town. I could see what building was on fire but it was close to the Liffey River. I grabbed an abandon coat on my bed, pulling it over my light dress as I raced outside. The air was thick with the smoke that instantly started to make my throat dry. But I ran toward it any ways, trying hard to get there. Patrick had warned me last night of the danger. We arrived at the same bedroom that we had witness the execution in. He led me gently to the bed where he again knelt in front of me. It seemed he was always kneeing but it also allowed for us to be at the same height. It gave his purpose more meaning when he spoke to me then.
“I want to you to stay here tonight and not go out to much tomorrow. Can you do that?”
I was puzzled by his remark; strange that he felt the need tell me the dangers of tomorrow when I already knew what and who were they were going to be committed by.
“Patrick, please stay here. It’ll be safe from both the police and your family. We can stop them tomorrow we can fix this… I’ll tell the police then you won’t be involved.”
He looked at my intently, I couldn’t stop what I knew he was going to do but I keep talking trying to stall it. Then finally he stopped with his finger on my lips. My words were lost on my tongue as he started to speak
“I am going to stop them tonight. They won’t wait for morning to start this. I may not be able to save all the people that will be there but I can at least save you. Please promise me that you’ll stay here until this is over.”
I couldn’t respond, I knew my heart would want to help him, so I just sat there until the tears started to fall. I felt weak as he pulled me closer to a tight embrace. I felt myself falling to the need of sleep as I tried to stay awake. He said he would stay until I fall asleep but my determination to stay awake was beaten as I drafted into a light sleep.
My feet pounded around the corner of the bridge finally seeing the burning building. The four courts building was partially engulf by large black clouds. People gathered in the street unsure of what to do. My running slowed to a walk as my mind remain fixed on the flames. Then I heard it, the shot of a gun sounding. My ears rang as I looked to where it sounded from a young officer less then ten feet away, shooting his rifle toward a man that was exiting the building. The one shot sent all the other officers to firing their weapons, the civilian started to screaming and running for safety. I too ran for a small out cove of the burning building not yet consumed.
The firing stopped for a moment…or I thought so because I couldn’t hear anything for a moment before the sounds intensified greatly, almost hurting my ears. The bullets came from both parties, I cautiously looked out from my guard to see Patrick’s father standing in the open firing to the officers. His voice screamed as he released the weapon’s power. Next to him was the man at the home last night, Michael Collins, he too was firing but he was protected behind some fallen stone from the court building. Many other young men stood next to the two, and then in seconds half of them fell. The officers were better trained in a way that many of the IRA’s men were dead during the battle. Either Collins or Patrick’s father was able to shot the officers strategically placed around the burning building and some in the open laying on their stomachs. The bullets, guns, and screams were so loud to my ears; my heart hurt at heard the torture cries from theses men. The fire crackled behind me as it grows in intensity, its cloud moving down wind started to block the view of the remaining IRA gunfighters. When they were completely out of sight many of the officers lift their positions in pursuit of the hidden men. With the gunfire stopped it allowed people to step out onto the street, still the cries and screams remained as I saw the other innocent people lying on the street. I cry openly from the sting of the smoke and the open display of violence against each other. Seeing those men made me realize the worst outcome here, Patrick was around here in theses tangled mass of stone and people. I screamed his name among the others that were being searched for too.
Nothing was returned to me. I walked the near by streets and allies screaming his name. I was alone as I passed the closed windows and doors of people homes that were to afraid to come out after the shooting had ended. When I had returned to the bridge again I saw him. His black cotton shirt was barely hanging upon his shoulders as he slowly made his way across the bridge. I ran to him, yelling his name, at the last second he looked up to see me fling my arms around him to hold him. My tears made his shirt wet on his shoulder mixing with blood and dirt that I didn’t know where he had gotten it from but I didn’t care. I only need to hold him. He gently pulled me away, he face was smudged with black tar, but he showed a small smile as he pulled me close again. I sighed in relief for his safety. After a few moments I released him as we started back to my home to tend to his wounds. We passed so many hurt people. Some that were crying in pain from an injury and some of the people were crying over a body that had been a loved one. I walked closer to Patrick as we passed these people. I keeping thinking I could have been one of them, there on the stone road holding him in his final moments. He gripped my hand tighter reassuring me that he was here and that he was fine. I felt strange and odd, almost like truly waking up to the world around me. Never would I have thought that the people in Dublin were capable of the pain I saw here. I knew about the war but I was like a child in a way not understanding that this war was so close until it was always in front of me. I saw pain for the first time in another’s face, I saw tears in a mother’s eyes for her son, and I finally recognize the hatred that was plainly on every beings face before this and all the times that I never saw it. In this time and place PEACE was a word that didn’t have definition here. Dublin was forever scarred by the choices its people had made. And finally I saw what the people here really wanted. I had heard Patrick speak about the longing for independence before but to me it had been words nothing that I could picture or hold. The men, women and children’s faces along these roads, all showed the same thing that every person in Dublin was ready to stop with the violence and fight with words against the British for their freedom. They were tired of the British violence against them and they were tired of the violence they fought back with that only hurt them more. They were not ready to stop the fight for independence but this violence was hurting their souls and determination toward their country‘s freedom from it‘s repressive occupier. I was ready with them, in this moment I felt more about this quest for independence then ever before. I walked with Patrick, my hand laced with his as we traveled through the city. When the people were on their feet, and the Irish will always be quick to stand again, Patrick will be ready to lead them to their freedom. He will help his people fight with their courage; his weapons will be words and moral, not fists and guns. Ireland will have her independence without anymore bloodshed in her name and I will help with that fight with some of my own words as my weapons.
May 18th, 1921
IN LOVING MEMORY OF PATRICK O’SHANAHAN