Her name was Dawn Croke. She has been called a tragic young mum, a beauty queen, a hero, and she was all those things. But remember that her name was Dawn Croke. And it is scant consolation today for her family or her two young children, for those who loved her, or for the community in which she was embedded and to whom she contributed so much, that Dawn Croke is a hero. But in times to come, whenever they remember her name, her heroism will console them.
Dawn Croke is not here to tell us about that crucial moment when she acted, but many everyday heroes like her will tell you that they just did what anyone would have done. They saw someone in trouble, something that needed to happen, and they just did it. As if possessed by some force outside of them, possessed by some kind of grace perhaps.
It seems that it was not out of character for Dawn Croke to have moved, in that moment, to save that six-year-old’s life as the 4X4 moved towards them in that schoolyard in Dungloe in Co Donegal. The way her community is remembering Dawn, it seems that she was one of those people whose instinct was to do the right thing: duty, contribution, usefulness.
Before Christmas, Dawn the schoolteacher brought her class down to Dublin. They visited Leinster House and then they went to Brother Kevin to give him the €1,000 they had raised for him. Again that instinct of seeing what needs to be done and doing it.
Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher said that warmth radiated from Dawn. It almost gave a sense of someone who shone with grace.
Another small community in Ireland is in distress this weekend, too. Even the thought that the fire at the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey, a hotel that was earmarked to take asylum seekers, may have been started deliberately, has clearly upset most of the community terribly. The people of Roosky and their representatives have been at pains to point out that, if the fire was deliberate, it was certainly not done in their name.
There has been discussion around how the consultation with the community was managed, and Leo Varadkar has warned that we must not ignore people’s concerns around migration. Which is, in reality, nothing to do with an act of hate, if that’s what this was. But the voices from this small community that resonated most last week, from local representatives nearly crying on camera, to ordinary decent people, those voices have clearly said that concerns about migration or not, this is not who they are.
We might take a moment to reflect what these two devastating stories from small Irish communities tell us about ourselves. Perhaps they remind us always to aspire to be the best of who we are, to the kind of decency and heroism and contribution that goes on in communities every day, from mothers, teachers, nurses, midwives, even beauty queens. And perhaps it reminds us to say that for all that we can be down on ourselves as a nation, as a people we are fundamentally decent.
Like most people in Rooskey, like Dawn, we do not choose ugliness and hatred, we choose grace and contribution.
And remember her name. Her name was Dawn Croke.