For tennis champion Andy Murray the memory of surviving the Dunblane Primary school massacre in 1996, in which 16 school mates and their teacher were massacred by former scout leader Thomas Hamilton, is still so raw, so traumatic that he almost never speaks about it. He claims he was too young to understand what had happened.
For the small town of Dublane, Scotland, the Newtown school shooting was all too familiar. The events that took place on March 13, 1996 led to the worst school shooting in Great Britain's history.
It's only in his recent autobiography, Hitting Back, that Murray describes his emotional experience that day; how he struggled to cope with the fact that he too could have been one of Hamilton's victims saying "some of my friends' brothers and sisters were killed. I have only retained patch impressions of that day, such as being in a classroom singing songs."
On that fateful morning, Murray was with his older brother Jamie, who was 10--both had been making their way to the gym, fortunately they were told to hide under a desk in the headmaster's study and survived the horrific attack. Hamilton had burst into the gym and began firing shots indiscriminately; his victims were aged between 5 and 6 years old. After three minutes, Hamilton turned his gun on himself.
In his book, Murray talks about how he had attended a youth group run by Hamilton and how his mother sometimes gave him rides in her car. Murray writes, "the weirdest thing was that we knew the guy [Hamilton]. He had been in my mum's car. It's obviously weird to think you had a murderer in your car, sitting next to your mum.''
The British number 1 tennis star also described why he finds it so difficult to recall all those memories from that day, writing "that is probably another reason why I don't want to look back at it. It is just so uncomfortable to think that it was someone we knew from the Boys Club. We used to go to the club and have fun. Then to find out he's a murderer was something my brain couldn't cope with.'' Hauntingly, Murray said "I could have been one of those children."
In an interview by ESPN, Murray's mother Judy described the moment she received that difficult call from the school saying, ''I said nothing, grabbed my car keys and jumped in the car and made my way over like every other mom,'' adding ''(it's) the worst thing, the worst thing you could imagine having to go through in your life kind of sitting, waiting not knowing whether your child was alive or dead you can't imagine what that was like.''
CLICK HERE to read about the "hero teacher," the principal and 20 children who lost their lives.
Describing how anxious parents had waited outside the school to find out whether their children had lived or died, ''the awful sense of relief and guilt when someone came in and said which class it was and knowing it wasn't your child, feeling terribly guilty that you were lucky enough to be that your children were ok,'' she told ESPN.
Judy also spoke candidly about how she helped her son cope, saying ''we just tried to keep everything as normal as we could, at that time he was probably 8 almost 9 years old and at that time he was playing quite a lot of tennis.''
Murray's grandparents were also interviewed by ESPN. His grandmother Shirley Erskine told the sports channel ''I think deep within him he wanted to do something, to put Dunblane on the map for the right reasons rather than the wrong reasons.''
But perhaps the most important outcome of the Dunblane massacre was the change in gun laws in the UK. Shortly after the tragedy a campaign was launched for tighter gun controls and in 1997 it was granted making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun in the UK.
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- Andy Murray
- Thomas Hamilton