Around 12,300km away in Walkinstown, Peggy and Paddy heard a knock on their door. It was a representative from Concern, there to tell them of the attack, but they didn’t know whether there were any injuries or fatalities.
“Then, they just got word that Valerie had been killed, so they knew then immediately and then that was it,” Peggy said.
“It was an awful shock.”
“We didn’t expect any trouble at all,” Paddy said.
Despite their own heartache, both Peggy and Paddy were happy that nobody else in the convoy was hit.
The following days were incredibly difficult for the Place family. Not only did they have to bury their sister and daughter, but Valerie’s death was a major news story.
Her funeral was also attended by then President Mary Robinson, who also spent time in Somalia.
In the weeks after Valerie’s death, her parents were inundated with letters from all over the world. They were bowled over by the kindness of people who they had never met. They received condolences from soldiers, politicians, journalists and humanitarians. Peggy still has them saved.
“I couldn’t pick one that meant the most to me, because there was just so many,” she said.
“We used to get bundles of them. Bundles of them tied up with elastic bands.”
“People were very appreciative of the work she was doing,” Paddy said.
Every year, the Place family have a mass to remember and honour Valerie. It’s a time for the family to get together and catch up, since some of Peggy and Paddy’s sons and daughters live abroad.
Valerie’s younger sister Denise has recently graduated as a nurse too.
The family also keep in touch with Concern and often attend major events, including this year’s event in Áras an Uachtaráin with President Michael D. Higgins, which celebrated the charity’s 50th year in operation.
“I think she’s remembered very well,” Peggy says.
“Concern always keeps in touch with us. It happened such a long time ago, you’d think a lot of people would have forgotten.”
“She was only 23. She was very young.”
“But she took it in her stride, didn’t she?” Paddy said.
“She did. She wasn’t afraid.”