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One among us didn’t Come Home
The glorious days of childhood, the days of the seasons of the years spent in and around the Millwoods in Speke had to end when the innocence of the games we played, the things we did brought tragedy.
Early October brought days of heavy rain one year and the Rams Brooke meandering its way across fields and through the Millwoods was in flood. After the rain, we kids from the neighbourhood in groups of threes, fives, and sixes sometimes more wandered through the woods and across fields to explore the great pools of water left by the rain. We paddled knee-deep, sailing paper boats across, what we imagined as seas and oceans, in the pools of water. When we tired of that, we went collecting damp sticks and logs of wood to drag back to the Alderfield to build a bonfire that we would burn on November the fifth to remember Guy Fawks and his plot to blow up the houses of parliament so many years ago.
The sun shone all day as we played away the hours we met up with other groups of kids, some of them joined our group, and others left us to go away with others or to simply be on their own. We were all free to go were our hearts and thoughts took us in those days. As the day ended, the shadows grew long and groups of kids started winding their way home. Half a dozen in a group heading for West or East Mains, another five making their way to Millwood Road eight or so to Alderfield Drive and others to Alderwood Avenue. The temperature started to drop it was getting cold as the sun gave up the day for evening time and all the children were safely home, all but one that is.
There was a commotion in the street, people moving about and asking if little Sean O’Shae was at their or my or someone else’s house, his tea was on the table but he hadn’t come home. The kids in the neighbour hood gathered in the street and their mums and dads did too. Everyone stood outside Sean’s house then the fire brigade came with red lights flashing in the encroaching dark. A police van was already there and policemen on bicycles rode into the street, a search was being organised to find Sean for his tea.
Policemen walked among us kids asking when we had last seen Sean, this morning, this afternoon or this evening? Was he with our group or had we seen him with someone else? There was much discussion going on then the police, firemen and some dads made a line and went over the fields and into the Millwoods to search for Sean. We kids were told to stay out on the street because night was falling and only adults should search the woods but we kids could help if we looked in back yards, sheds and alley ways just in case Sean was hiding and was afraid to come out.
We heard shouts from the searchers from time to time asking if anyone had found anything yet. Another fire engine arrived and the men got out of the truck and ran hoses across the field, which they lit up with searchlights, to the pond we had sailed our paper boats on. Pumps started to whine and water spurted into the gutter from the back of the fire engine, they were draining the pond out. Surely Sean couldn’t be in there; we had seen him in the Millwoods this afternoon.
Someone said Sean had left the group that he was with to go home early by himself. A silence, the likes of which can be felt, because it is so intense fell across the crowd, a sinking feeling came into our stomachs we knew now Sean was lost.
Little groups start to natter about when they last saw him, this morning, this afternoon but the realisation among the crowd was that the firemen and the police believed Jimmy was in the pond. The pumps continued on draining water into the street as darkness enveloped everyone. We could see the flashes of torches in between the trees of the Millwood as the men searched in hope that would find Sean alive and well. Every yard, every ally, every coal shed, every nook and cranny had been looked at repeatedly but to no avail. Everyone started to stand in silence peering across the flood lamp lit field and at the pond as it grew smaller and smaller.
Suddenly all lights went out; darkness made us blink just one light came back on shining a narrow beam across the field and into the pond. The fire engine pumps stopped. Silence reigned. A policeman came running from the field and pushing through the crowd he went into Jimmy’s house. Policemen came up to us and said very firmly but quietly the search was being called off we should all go home for the night. People asked if they had found Sean in the pond or in the wood. The questions went unanswered; the policemen just kept asking everyone to go home. With flashing lights and ringing bells an ambulance arrived, we knew then Sean had been found. Was he alive or was he dead? No one answered the question. More policemen went into Sean’s house. The fire engines turned off their flashing red lights and the spotlight. Everyone stood still even the firemen didn’t move an inch.
From Jimmy’s house came a strange but haunting part cry, part scream, part howl a mournful yell of misery that heard once heard you never want to hear again. It was Sean’s mother’s cry and every one of us knew then that Sean was dead. Innocence left us forever when one among us didn’t come home.