The village of Creeslough has given a gift to the rest of the world by creating a template for the power of community in dealing with tragedy, a priest said.
Father John Joe Duffy spoke as funerals were held on Wednesday for those who died in an explosion at a petrol station in the village of Co Donegal last Friday.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins attended the funerals and met the families of the bereaved.
At James O’Flaherty’s funeral, his son Hamish told mourners to cherish life and family.
The funeral of Catherine O’Donnell, 39, and her son James Monaghan, 13, was later held at St Michael’s Church in Creeslough.
Father Duffy said at the joint memorial service that James was a child about to “take off in life”.
He said: “We’re thinking of James. We think of an airplane slowly taxiing down a runway and about to take off. That was James.
“He was just a kid rolling down the runway to take off into his teenage years. He was just beginning his life.
“No wonder we’re at a loss for words this afternoon under such circumstances.”
The community heard that James’ mother was “bubbly” and “full of life.”
“She was very intelligent and she loved parties,” Father Duffy told the mourners. “She loved organizing parties.”
He continued: “These visible acts of good that we have all seen since Friday give us hope, uplift and break into this terrible sorrow to offer a little comfort.
“The days of Friday and Saturday, one thing that struck so many people wasn’t the rattling of words spoken at the crime scene, what struck us the most was the silence.
“A mass silence from people who have gathered to support one another and that has been the story of this community these days.
“Perhaps Creeslough has made a gift of all this suffering and pain to the rest of the world.
“A new understanding of what it means to be community.
“The strength of our people in a tragedy has provided an example to the world of how we are strongest in the midst of the greatest pain and sorrow when we rely on and support one another.”
Earlier in the day, hundreds attended the funeral of James O’Flaherty at St Mary’s Church in Derrybeg, Co Donegal.
Mr O’Flaherty, an engineer, was originally from Sydney, Australia but lived in Dunfanaghy, a few miles from Creeslough, with his wife Tracey and son Hamish, 12.
Students from Faugher National School, where Hamish attends, provided a guard of honor as his father’s remains were brought into the church.
Hamish spoke at the funeral and said his father was a “great man”.
He added: “I want to say thank you to all the people who have given and offered so many things. Also the rescue workers, who were there within 15 minutes and also came to the station.