Today (Tuesday, March 20) marks a quarter of a century since the IRA detonated a bomb in Warrington's Bridge Street, killing two children and injuring dozens.
It is hard to fathom that 25 years have passed since that day of devastation changed the lives of so many, inspiring a tireless campaign for peace and reconciliation by the family of one of the victims, 12-year-old Tim Parry.
March 20, 1993, was the day before Mother’s Day so Tim had gone into Warrington town centre with a friend to do some shopping, particularly keen on buying football shorts of his beloved team Everton.
At 12.25pm, a bomb planted by the IRA in a litter bin outside Boots ripped through Warrington as families shopped. Three-year-old Johnathan Ball was killed instantly and 56 people were left injured.
Tim was left fighting for his life after suffering massive brain injuries and remained on life support at Liverpool's Walton Hospital for five days.
But the damage to his young body was too severe and his devastated parents Colin and Wendy made the heartbreaking decision to allow surgeons at Liverpool’s Walton Hospital to turn off Tim’s life support system.
The senseless tragedy shocked Warrington, and the world. No warning was given, and nobody was ever prosecuted for the horrific attack.
But Colin and Wendy turned their pain into something positive, by setting up the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, which has since become an internationally recognised centre in Warrington for conflict resolution and victim support.
Over the last 18 years since it opened, it has become a symbol of hope and reconciliation to many, as well as remaining a living memorial to Tim and Johnathan.
Speaking to The Chronicle in 2013 on the 20th anniversary of the attack, Wendy said she thought Tim would be 'amazed' at the fact he has a peace centre named after him.
“We’d like to think he’d be very proud of his parents and family," she said. "And we’re pretty sure if Tim were alive now he’d be dad to at least one, two or maybe three very handsome, charming, witty and intelligent children!"
Today, a commemoration service will be held in Bridge Street, Warrington – the scene of the devastation.
It will be attended by HRH The Princess Royal, families of victims of the attack, faith leaders and representatives of the British and Irish governments.
Wreaths will be laid at 12.25pm with a minute’s silence at 12.27pm and Colin will be among the speakers.
In the run up to the commemoration, Colin penned an open letter to his son, published in our sister paper The Liverpool Echo , to mark 25 years without him.
Here are his beautiful, but heartbreaking, words of love and loss...
To My Boy, Tim
Today, it is 25 long years since you were fatally injured by a bomb in Bridge Street.
It is 25 long years since the very last time I gazed upon your smiling face.
It is 25 long years since I last heard you speak.
It is 25 long years since I last held you.
It has been 25 long years of the pain of missing you.
It has been 25 long years, which is more than double the time we had you with us.
Each of us – me, your Mum, your brother Dom, your sister Abbi, your cousins, uncles, aunts and your dearest friends – all miss you and never ever forget how huge a part of our lives you were…and, be assured, always will be.
But memories of when you were with us, precious as they are, will always be shrouded in deep sadness that you had these 25 years stolen from you, and you have missed so much.
You have not shared the joy of the birth of your three nieces and your one nephew.
You will never ever hear them call you Uncle Tim, but they do, and they do so often.
They walk in the path that you walked. They have all attended the same schools as you did. They often hear you named in their school, whether as a mark of respect, or because of a special anniversary and, of course, the High School established a memorial garden in your name.
You were the first name in the wall which marks the garden – though, sadly, more children than I would have ever expected have joined you in that wall, with you at its centre.
Two years after we lost you, your Mum and I set up a wonderful charity which is named after you and three-year-old Johnathan Ball who died on that awful day.
Seven years after we lost you, we opened a unique building named after you and Johnathan. It is a Peace Centre. No, it is THE Peace Centre. It is the only Peace Centre in this country and, so far as we know, it is the ONLY Peace Centre anywhere in the whole world, and it is your Peace Centre Tim. It is a living memorial to you Tim and to Johnathan.
Many good people supported us after we lost you Tim, and they gave us the strength to set up our charity in your name.
Many good people help us today and every day, to keep your charity and your Peace Centre going.
Many thousands of people have been helped by your charity Tim. Their lives have been made better and safer thanks to you, and we do it all in your name.
Your school photograph smiles down on everyone who sets foot in the Peace Centre or takes part in our peace work because your face is on everything we produce in print and on our website.
So, who and what would you have become Tim on this day, at the age of 37 years and 200 days?
Would you be a husband or partner to someone you loved to share your life with? I think so.
Would you be a father to one, or more children? I think so.
Would you be highly educated, with a career in which you excelled? I think so.
Would you still have the passion you had as a 12-year-old boy for sport? I think so.
Would you have brought up your son or sons or daughters to have the passion you shared with Dom, with me, with your Grandad Eric, for Everton Football Club, and would you smile to know that Everton made a trophy, the ‘Tim Parry Trophy’, which Dom and I present every year at Goodison to the best player in the Everton Cup Final? I know so!
So you see Tim, that your life and memory is a beacon to so many others.
Your name is immortalised by your Peace Foundation and your Peace Centre.
You live on in so many ways.
Of course, whatever may have followed after we lost you, you would have lived on through your close family, but now, you have a family of millions. Your name is a symbol for peace just as I said that I hoped it would be, when I spoke at your funeral.
Since we lost you, your grandparents have followed on. Grandad Eric went first and was followed by your Nanna Betty and Grandad John. They lie with you overlooking Warrington, and when we visit where you lie we remember you all, including the one grandparent you never met, my mother and your Nanna, Lucy. I hope you have met her in heaven with Eric, Betty and John.
Rest easy Tim and be assured that you have touched the lives of many people…most of whom you never met, but they have met you and they thank you for what you have given them.
It is 25 long years since I last saw you, heard you and held you my son, but you are never far. You will be with us all until the time comes for us to join you and see you, hear you and hold you once again.
With eternal love,
Your Dad, who is proud that you are his Son x
The Warrington bombing will be featured in a new BBC drama starring Vicky McClure and Daniel Mays.
Mother's Day has been penned by Broken writer Nick Leather who lived in Warrington as a youngster.