As we cross the new bridge, bracing ourselves against the wind, we hear sirens.
Three fire engines. Four police cars. An emergency tender. An ambulance.
We look out across the Shannon, to the north bank, and the river rescue people launch two high-speed ribs.
In this weather, the Shannon basin heaves and throws. I know this water well. It has taken my friends.
Two more police vehicles arrive. Jeeps pull up on the footpath. A cop arrives on a motorbike.
At the other side of the bridge, four young lads run up to the railing. They’re in black suits, like they came from a funeral, but it’s too early for that — maybe they were at a debs. They wear earrings, and they talk into mobiles. They text.
Two older men run past, talking into mobiles. Older men my age. Older than the boys with their raw, unformed faces. They look into the river. They talk to the lads. They phone. They text.
We feel like voyeurs and we walk on. We don’t want to see what the boats will find, so we walk on, across the bridge and we walk on down the other bank. O’Callaghan Strand.
A helicopter comes with a huge throbbing and hovers over us: a huge, red Sikorsky chopper. It moves up and down the river, upstream of the search and we wonder why.
Why are they searching up there? Wouldn’t ..?
We meet an old man. I suppose someone jumped, he says.
I become an old man. For the first time in my life, I become the generation that made me and I tell him, They could have slipped.
He looks at me. He shakes his head. No, he says, and I think he’s right. No.
God love them, we both say, though I believe in no God and perhaps neither does he.
We walk on, down Clancy Strand, where neighbours stand by the quay wall and talk to each other, and to us.
God love them.
We walk on across Thomond Bridge, past King John’s Castle and down by the courthouse to Arthur’s Quay. Here comes the chopper again. The big chopper and here come the high-speed ribs. They know something. They converge on the chopper.
I don’t want to see what they find. I’ve seen enough of this in my life and I don’t want to see any more.
They converge and the chopper hovers but I don’t want to see.
There are family. There are friends. There are sisters and brothers.
I hate myself for wishing I’d brought my camera.
It’s all shit.
We walk on.
Now we know his name. He helped us us on the Haiti project.
One of the good guys.