A COOKSTOWN teenager has returned home from the United States having attended a conference on global terrorism.
Danielle Hamilton joined teenagers from around the world who have lost family members to terrorism for Project Common Bond in Boston.
The 14-year-old Cookstown High School pupil lost her grandfather, UDR man David Graham at the age of 38.
David had been off duty and died ten days after being shot at his workplace in Coalisland on March 15, 1977, leaving behind three children and Danielle’s Granny, Eileen.
The Tuesday’s Children organisation, which was founded to provide support for the children of 9/11 and others affected by global terrorism, organised the event through Project Common Bond.
The conference was held at Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts, just 30 miles from Boston from July 12 to 20.
Governor’s Academy, founded in 1763, is the oldest boarding school in America and sits on 450 beautiful acres, four miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
Danielle was representing Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism Ltd (J.I.V.T Ltd) - a Northern Ireland-wide advocacy and representation based organisation.
Reflecting upon her experiences Danielle said all the participants were fantastic,
“As people started to arrive it became real - that this was going to be an unbelievable opportunity for me to meet people from all over the world who have been affected by terrorism enabling us to share our stories,” she said.
“During the week, the quiet people shone, and made more and more friends every day.”
Danielle and the participants were involved in workshops on music, dance, art, sports and drama, as well as dignity classes.
“It was during our dignity classes that I became truly aware of how terrorism affects everyone from around the world. I have learnt that dignity is something that is very important to everyone and is needed in everyday life. When it was time to come home, I was very sad to leave the new friends I’d made, but I know that there’s always next year,” she added.
In a statement Kenny Donaldson, Company Secretary for J.I.V.T Ltd said Danielle had a memorable time in the United States.
“I am told by the event organisers that she got involved enthusiastically in the workshops over the course of the week and displayed maturity well beyond her youthful years,” he said.
“Danielle is a credit to her family, the district and to the J.I.V.T Ltd organisation.”
Mr Donaldson said it was important that Danielle’s grandfather’s name and legacy lives on.
“I hope that the experience brings a degree of comfort, recognition and acknowledgement not only for Danielle, but for the wider Graham and Hamilton families,” he said.
And Mr Donaldson added: “Danielle and others, in a global arena, represented the message of innocent victims in Northern Ireland. That message was simple but clear - that it is essential that lessons are learnt in a society such as Northern Ireland which is trying to deal with its past.
“All must understand (and for some this will be belated) that terrorism is not justified, it was never justified and there are no circumstances where the act of murder can be considered acceptable - no political cause can ever justify such actions.”