Today, when the clock strikes at 12:55 p.m., at that very moment, I want all of us to pause and remember those who tragically lost their lives on this day in 1997, when a dome collapse at the Soufriere Hills Volcano occurred.
At exactly that time 23 years ago, on Wednesday June 25, 1997; two years after the start of volcanic activity, Montserrat changed forever –our lives changed forever and indeed the lives of the families who lost loved ones, were forever changed. As a nation and as a people, we will never forget them.
The scientific report which was produced noted that in the following 25 minutes, a series of devastating pyroclastic flows swept the northern flanks of the volcano, down Mosquito Ghaut and followed the Paradise River almost to the sea.
In addition to the loss of lives, 150 houses were destroyed. The villages of Streatham, Dyers, Harris, Bethel, Bramble, Trants, Farms and Spanish Point were severely affected.
It is recalled that the persons who perished were in the eastern corridors where the fertile lands were located, engaging in sustenance farming, to supply not only their households, but also the wider Montserrat community.
Those of us who were here, who hailed from those communities and who knew those who died has had that experience permanently etched in our memories and our hearts. We will always remember them and the lessons learnt from that day.
In 25 minutes the course of our lives was altered, and so we understand how unpredictable life is. Therefore, we must ensure that each minute of every day is spent making valuable contributions to our lives, each other and this island.
Today, as we reflect and remember the June 25th, 1997 tragedy, we take a moment of silence in reverence, to give honour to the families who still mourn the loss of their loved ones.
It is with a deep sense of appreciation for their lives and contribution to the Montserrat society, that we continue to recognize their patriotism and dedication.
May their souls rest in eternal peace.