Continued from Events that change our lives (1)
The arrival of the owner of the garage was slightly awkward to say the least. He had gotten a phone call in the early hours from the Gardai and was, of course, well aware of what had happened. He had travelled straight from his home into the hospital, had met John and had driven my dad home for a quick change and back to the hospital.
Heres the little nugget of information we had all forgotten about. A sawn off shot-gun had been stolen from under the til counter of the garage two weeks previously. While we were all having dinner that evening Jim told us it had been stolen and the first thing my mother said was ‘that gun will be used to hurt someone’.
Jim got through the next 24 hours, still critical. We had neighbours, relatives and a lot of Jim’s friends call all day. Everyone was shocked at what had happened. Then came the question ‘who done it?’ The police had been in touch with John about 12hrs after the shooting. They had the man who shot both Jim and Dominic in custody. Dominic was the other man shot, he was in his 60’s and working in the garage shop was his part-time job. There were 4 people in the shop when the burglary happened, Dominic behind the counter, Jim standing opposite him and two other lads I had gone to school with about to leave the shop. The robber walked in with a balaclava over his face and gun in his hand. He shot into the roof, then demanded Dominic hand over the til, Dominic tried to hand the til to Jim who was going to give it to the robber. Before Jim took hold of the til he was shot under his left arm and chest, as he dropped to the ground, the burglar took aim at Dominic and shot him in the face, he then tried to shoot a 4th time but the cartridge jammed in the barrel.
Luckily the two men unhurt, recognised the voice of the burglar and were able to tell the police who they suspected it was. The police called to the house of the burglar only a matter of hours after the shooting, he was in his kitchen eating a sandwich, 17yrs of age. His brother was in my year in school, another brother was in the same year as my sister, we knew the family well. He had stolen the gun two weeks before he used it, he had stolen it from the very garage he shot Jim and Dominic in.
Just minutes after my parents left to go back to the hospital two days after the shooting, I answered the phone. It was the hospital looking for permission to operate again, I asked if it was serious, they very plainly said yes it is. I immediately said, of course, yes, and they were gone. My parents arrived to the hospital and Jim was already in surgery. I can only imagine the anxious wait they had, because it was another 4 hr operation. This time they had to remove his left lung and sever all nerves leading to his left arm. He was alive but very ill and in for a tricky 24hrs. Dominic was very lucky, his face was sprayed with the pellets from the cartridge. He was back in a ward and waiting for swelling to go down, he was out of danger but it was unknown how disfigured his face would be.
Three days after the shooting myself and Ingrid were allowed in to ICU to see Jim. Needless to say it was very emotional. He had tubes coming out of everywhere and his body was so packed with dressing he looked like the Michelin man. Gradually as the days went on he started to improve, after 3 weeks he left ICU. That was only the start of his recovery. During the first round of surgery they had to remove a rib in order to get at the actual cartridge itself to remove it. The left side of his chest needed skin grafts, they had to remove part of the calf of his leg to try to graft under his arm and again more and more skin grafts on his chest and they made a few attempts to get some movement in his arm by redirecting nerves, all unsuccessful unfortunately. He was in hospital for over 3 months and had approx. 16 operations.
The day he came home from hospital was incredible. All the neighbours and relations were waiting on the road and as soon as Johns car turned the corner there was lots of ‘here he is, here he is’. It was like the scene out of The Snapper when the brother was ruturning from his stint in the army, without the record player blaring, of course! Everyone started clapping when he finally managed to get out of the car. He was in a body cast with his left arm also in a cast at a 90 degree angle to his torso. Everyone was crying with happiness. Jim on the other hand just smiled wondering ‘what are you all like’ !! It was a good day. He was the local hero for quite a while after, something he hated.
The way my parents handled everything once Jim had gotten home from hospital was just amazing, between his regular trips to hospital and rehab, to the trial.
By the time Jim got home from hospital everyone knew who had shot him. We as a family had to live in the same village as them. For me I hated the guy who shot him and for a while I did despise the whole family. I saw them regularly, I had to pass them in the street, or sit a few seats behind them on the bus or dart. One thing that changed my mind was one day about 6 months after the event I was waiting for a bus and along came one of the brothers of the burglar. As usual with them I avoided eye contact but I was shaking inside, it was both anger and fear. After about 5 minutes he approached me and simply said he wanted to apologise for what happened and he tried to explain how horrified they were as a family as to what happened. I accepted his apology and thanked him. I felt relief afterwards somehow and I no longer despised the family. I did still hate the guy who committed the crime. Eventually we all just let that feeling of hate go, what was the point.
Damien Meenaghan was sentanced to 12 years in jail and served 8. The family no longer live in Portmarnock and we as a family have never seen or heard from him since the day of his trial.
It took Jim another 2 years before he felt any way confident. He still refuses to swim or be seen without a long sleeved t-shirt on, his hand is permanently in the shape of a claw with no movement, in public he either hides his hand or puts it into a pocket. He did manage to gain some movement in his arm through rehab. He returned to the garage to work, Joe hired an assistant to help him and as his confidence returned he learned how to adapt to only having the use of one hand. About 15 years ago the garage closed and Jim built an ‘all mod cons’ garage in the grounds of my parents house. Today he still works as a mechanic, but he always has an assistant with him for those jobs he can no longer do. I really dont know how he got through what happened to him, he definitely has an inner strength equal to none.