HOW did he get into the sky? Six-year-old Evie chatters away about her Uncle Tim. In fact, he’s never far from her mind.
“She talks about him all the time,” says her mum Abbi. “She has certainly got a bond with him. And Evie misses him.”
There’s nothing unusual in that, of course, except that Evie has never met her uncle. Her uncle is Tim Parry, one of the two boys killed in the Warrington bomb blast.
But within a family which has survived because of its love and closeness, he is still very much a part of her little life.
“From a very young age Evie has known who Tim is,” says Abbi, 31,Tim’s sister from whom there was but a year’s difference in age.
“She often gets upset over him and says she misses him. Yet she has never met him.
“I suppose that is because we talk about him and there are pictures in my home and my brother Dominic’s,” she adds. “There is still a presence of Tim.
“So, yes, she feels as though she knows him. There’s no way she couldn’t.
“With her being so young she doesn’t quite understand why he’s not with us any more. She has asked in the past why she can’t go and see him…”
“I’ve got a picture in my car of Tim,” interjects mum, Wendy. “And Evie saw it and said ‘tell me about Uncle Tim’. I asked what she wanted to know and she said ‘tell me, how did uncle Tim die?’
“I thought ‘oh my goodness, how on earth am I going to explain it?” says Wendy.
“Well however you explained it, you did it in a way that she could understand,” says Abbi.
“She has always remembered what you told her, and never been scared of it. And I assured her it was never going to happen again.”
The thought clearly takes Abbi back to the day disaster struck and there’s a comforting smile and a gentle pat from mum Wendy, as the tears well in a sister’s eyes.
Like her daughter, Abbi misses him too.
She’s keen not to sugar coat the memory. We chat in a room within the Peace Centre, opened as a living memorial to Tim and Johnathan Ball. Evie draws on the whiteboard and practises her spellings – watched proudly by her mum and grandmother – while Abbi’s nine-month-old baby Arthur Timothy, named in memory of her brother, crawls around on the fluffy rug in front of them.
Abbi laughs as she remembers theirs was a normal brother and sister relationship: “We look back and you remember all the fond memories,” she admits.
“There were times when we both annoyed the hell out of each other,” she laughs.
But it was special too: “Because there was only 13 months between us, we were close. We did a lot together.”
“When Tim went to nursery Abbi was upset that she wasn’t with him. I had to volunteer to help out so that Abbi could be there,” says Wendy.
The day Tim died had started off like any other normal, ‘hectic’ Saturday morning. Everyone was going their own separate ways.
“We were of an age where we were allowed to go into town on our own to be with our mates,” says Abbi.
“I remember Tim and his friend Piers were leaving and then I was going to my friend’s. She and I were going into town on the bus but we got re-directed and were told we couldn’t get there. Everything had stopped.
“We went back to my friend’s and wondered what had gone on. To us it was just something to talk about at school on Monday. We didn’t know what had happened, we didn’t think anybody had been hurt.
“It was my nan who eventually got in touch with my friend’s step-dad. He drove me home and didn’t say a word, and it was only when I got into the house and saw my nan and grandad that I asked what was going on.
“Mum and dad were at the hospital because they thought Tim had been caught up in whatever had gone on. To be honest, I was thinking ‘if there’s trouble to be had, Tim would have to be there’ and that he would just be home soon. I reckoned if he’d broken his leg he’d be lapping up all the attention.
“I just thought ‘he’s going to love all the drama’. It was only when mum and dad came home later, as soon as they walked through the door, I knew something was wrong.
“I saw my dad getting upset, I had never seen him cry, and I realised it was serious. That was how the night ended.
“It was a quiet house. And it was the same in the morning.
“It was Mother’s Day, of course, the next day, and we’d bought cards.”
Dominic and Abbi went into their mum and dad’s room and handed them over, sitting on the edge of the bed.
But there was an eerie silence: “Something was missing,” says Abbi.
Wendy’s parents, along with Colin’s father, had stayed with the family and took Dominic and Abbi while Wendy and Colin returned to the hospital. They weren’t sure if Tim would last the night.
While Wendy and Colin kept their vigil at his bedside, the family tried to carry on as best they possibly could.
Abbi and Dominic chose to go to school on the Monday as usual – “I wanted to keep their lives as normal as I possibly could,” says Wendy, “and their friends were, and are, very protective.”
Life was far from normal, however, and as the world shone its spotlight on the town and on the families whose lives had been turned upside down, there was the inevitable interest from the media.
Colin and Wendy became accustomed and adept to talking to journalists, even if their children did not.
“It was just so surreal for me,” says Abbi, “to get home and have camera crews there. I did try to distance myself from it.
“I didn’t begrudge mum and dad doing it, I knew how important it was for them, especially dad speaking about this. That was his therapy; people deal with things differently.
“But that wasn’t the way for me to deal with it.”
The sobriety is broken by howls of laughter as Arthur, by now picked up for cuddles from grandma, manages to pop her on the nose with her Peace Centre pass with which he’s become fascinated.
And the mood lightens as Abbi thinks about what her brother might have done, or been, had his life not been so cruelly snatched away.
Wendy, quite sensibly, thinks Tim would have joined the Navy. He was, after all, a member of the Sea Scouts.
But clearly, Abbi has something else in mind: “I think he would have been famous!
“Tim would have been on Pop Idol or X Factor. He always loved to get up on stage and show off.”
He would almost certainly have been grounded, as are Dominic and Abbi in spite of the cataclysmic events which propelled this ordinary family into the spotlight.
Wendy recalls how people looked askance when they arrived at her home to find her ironing in the eye of the storm.
“But mum had to do that,” assures Abbi. “For her own sanity or she would have gone under. That was her way of coping, to keep her mind occupied.
“Keeping life as normal as possible for us too was important.
“As a parent I don’t think I’m different as a mum because of what’s happened. I take my lead from the way my parents brought me up.
“What has changed is how I see life and appreciate it. I enjoy life: you have got to enjoy the here and now.
“Mum and I are close, and it’s hard to know if we would have been different if the events of 20 years ago hadn’t taken place.
“Because of what’s happened we have done things together we would never have done otherwise.
“We climbed Kilimanjaro together, we have been away for weekends with the charity together.
“I think we appreciate being together more. If I’ve not seen mum for a while or spoken to her, it feels strange.”
And even though Abbi can no longer see her brother, he is constantly on her mind: “There are times when I stop and think ‘what would Tim think of this or that?
“He is always around. He is still part of our family.”
Paddy Shennan recalls how the Warrington bombs brought horror to what should have been a special Merseyside weekend >>>
FOR countless Merseysiders this wasn’t going to be just another weekend.
On Saturday March 20, 1993, the Liverpool ECHO was full of loving and heartfelt Mother’s Day messages as the nation prepared to pay homage to millions of mums the following day.
Meanwhile, there was the little matter of a Merseyside derby with Liverpool and Everton set to lock horns at Anfield at 3pm on Saturday.
There was, as usual, plenty going on in and around Liverpool, and plenty for ECHO readers to discuss at the end of another busy week.
On Friday March 19, the ECHO front page carried the dramatic headline: OWEN OWEN BLOW – Famous city store is to close. We revealed its doors would shut for the last time in June that year.
Elsewhere, as part of the ECHO’s Crime And You survey, we carried an interview with then Merseyside Chief Constable James Sharples, who had been in the top job for four years. Part two of that interview was carried in Saturday’s ECHO, which reported on Princess Anne’s fleeting visit to the region the previous day.
Then the first report of the bombing of Bridge Street appeared in the ECHO’s City Final edition that afternoon.
It quoted Mersey Regional Ambulance Service spokesman David Todhunter, who said: “There is a state of total chaos at the moment.”
Monday’s ECHO continued to tell the grim tale of that day, and included a particularly poignant and touching tribute.
Twelve-year-old Tim Parry was still clinging to life, but three-year-old Johnathan Ball had died at the scene of the IRA atrocity.
And the full-page ECHO Comment was taken over by a photograph of the message on a bouquet of flowers left at a makeshift shrine in Bridge Street. It read: “For an innocent little boy who knew nothing of the horrors of terrorism. May you rest in peace. From mothers who care, on Mother’s Day.”
And beneath it, we simply wrote: “Twenty five words from the heart that speak for us all today.”