I have been wanting to write this post for so long but have been putting it off again and again. One reason for this is that I hoped to create a video to accompany this, but decided not to due to time constraints and also because it contained footage of my primary school class, and I don’t have their permission to publish it publicly. This is also obviously a sensitive issue, but I hope that this is a nice tribute, as well as giving the general reader an idea of what accompanied my journey to surgery.
I met Declan aged 4 in Reception Class. He was always friendly and quite boisterous. My mum said that sometimes he was in his own little world and was completely unresponsive to what anyone told him – this wasn’t because he was being naughty, it was just how he was. One thing I noticed at that age was his large and growing family, and they were lovely. He wasn’t as bright as me but made up for it in friendliness. I would see him a lot as our trays (this is where we kept our stuff in the classroom) were next to each other – they were ordered by first rather than last name. Having said that, we were a close knit class and indeed school, with only 200 or so pupils. Unfortunately, even though I left just 8 years ago, I can’t remember all that much else about life at Primary School. In Year 6 we put on the Sound of Music as a play, but it was a ‘Mr Bennett special’, including a gorilla, random dances, and Robbie Williams – played by Declan. He loved music, and was good at it too, earning him not only that part but also the part of one of the children.
We all thought we’d not see him again once year 6 was over, as he went to a different school to the ones most of us were going to. Luckily this was not the end, as he transferred to my school a year later. Sadly, this would be the last time I ever spoke to him, outside the main entrance of the school. He was with a group of boys from his form and me and my friend were walking past to get to our lesson. We said hi to him and moved on, but I had a feeling that the boys were giving him grief about it. I didn’t really see him around school anyway, but I doubt I would’ve acknowledged him again if I felt the others would be mean. This probably contributed to him homeschooling, but also the larger school environment makes it harder for anyone to thrive and get the same level of support as in earlier years.
It was a Friday morning when the accident happened, 6th May 2011. He was crossing the road on his paper round whilst listening to his iPod with his hood up. A car flashed him to cross but another was coming the other way and he was thrown into the air. It was the school run and reportedly a number of buses passed the spot where it happened and saw the scene. He was obviously taken to hospital and the news of the incident spread, mainly through Facebook. I found out about it on Saturday and vividly remember telling my mum after my piano lesson that Declan had been knocked down. I cannot actually remember being particularly scared about my impending appointment, I guess I focused my energies on praying he would get better, which we all thought would definitely happen. We prayed at church the next day, and at youth group, but by the time I arrived home at 9pm on Sunday night, his parents had made the brave decision to turn off his life support. The news came, as usual, from Facebook, and I remember crying for around 10 minutes before going to tell my parents, who were watching something on TV. They never announced his death at school, telling us about the accident but not confirming what we’d heard on Facebook. I was upset and angry for a while, but almost enjoyed the memorial service, held in a large marquee, with loads of people there – including many of my primary school class. His death also inspired his sister to make music and she has released an album and is doing a concert on Saturday – her website provided a number of facts about the accident
RIP Declan, gone but never forgotten.