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community spirit

'Our focus is on being there': The coffee shop helping locals process the Creeslough tragedy

Café owner Siobhan Carr said it has been a huge community effort since Friday.

Diarmuid Pepper reports from Creeslough.

LOCATED IN THE town of Creeslough is The Coffee Pod, which has been operating as a hub for the community and emergency crews since Friday’s tragedy.

Ten people died in the incident and eight people remain in hospital, one of whom is in a critical condition. The victims were named today by gardaí.

Since Friday afternoon, tired first responders and shocked locals have been using The Coffee Pod, free of charge, as a place to congregate and process the event.

“On Friday evening, we were winding down to close when the explosion happened,” Siobhan Carr, the manager of The Coffee Pod, told The Journal.

“At the start, nobody really knew what had happened. So, our first response was to see what exactly had happened.

“From then on, it was just all hands on deck for everybody in the community and ourselves.”

The explosion happened at around 3.15pm on Friday, 45 minutes before The Coffee Pod was due to close for the day.

But the café has remained open since as a place for people to “gather their thoughts, have a coffee, have a tea, and process what had happened”.

The Coffee Pod has refused payment from locals and emergency crews, but also from media covering the tragedy.

While Carr is taken aback by the response to the café’s generosity, she is at pains to note that it has been a community effort.

“The community and every other business rallied around to support us. Food came from all over the country.

Local hotels and restaurants, Letterkenny coffee shops, local people themselves. We were more than happy to accommodate emergency services and anybody that needed to be fed throughout the night.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do this and continue to do it the way we have been over the weekend, only for the support that we have got from everybody else, so it was so greatly appreciated.

“It has kind of escalated online for that reason but it was done by a full community, as well as ourselves.

“We’re only here as part of that, being a friendly face to hand it out, but we’re more than happy to do that.”

Community help

The community of Creeslough has been commended for their response to the tragedy and Carr says, “the minute it happened, the local community was in and trying to help as quick as possible”.

“We have a young staff here,” notes Carr, “so all the girls were straight in to work and helping in any way they could.”

Carr is particularly proud of the teenage girls who have been feeding the emergency crews and tells The Journal that they were “straight down to help”.

“The girls that have come in over the weekend are at college. So they had just finished college on Friday afternoon when the news broke but they were straight down to help, with no hesitations at all.

And every other young girl that was around were ringing to see if they could do anything, and that has gone on all over the weekend.

“It’s bad weather outside today so we are a place for people to go and have a coffee and recharge themselves. It’s been a long weekend for everybody so we’re here to help.”

Many people online have asked how they can donate to The Coffee Pod as a thanks for their generosity, and Carr says she has been inundated with offers of donations.

However, she urged people to donate elsewhere and emphasised that she is not seeking any donations for the work she and her staff have been doing.

Carr reflects on how small the community of Creeslough is, remarking that “we see these people on a daily or weekly basis”.

“The shop that was included in the explosion is next door to where we work. We were up and down for supplies; we see the girls who have worked there and the customers who go in and out.

“It was a shop where, anytime you pass by the door, no one ever walks out without saying ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’”

While The Coffee Pod is somewhat at the centre of media attention this weekend, Siobhan Carr worries about how staff will cope when the dust settles and the cameras leave Creeslough.

“We probably haven’t had the time to process this because we’ve been in the mode of trying to keep everyone going.

“We haven’t looked beyond the next few days and I suppose for the next week it’s about rallying around the families of the bereaved people that we all knew.

“It’s going to be a tough week on everybody, plus ourselves as well, but our focus for the moment is to be here for everybody if they need us for the next few days and to help in any way we can.”

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