Few people outside the South Wales valleys had heard of Aberfan until the morning of 21 October 1966. That coal-black day, a generation of children lost their lives when a colliery tip collapsed, engulfing Pantglas junior school. In total, 144 people died including 116 pupils.
This weekend, Aberfan, Wales and the world will remember.
Few disasters have had the searing emotional impact of Aberfan. Even after four decades, few can read about the tragedy without being moved to tears. It's easy to understand why: the death of any child is hard to take, but for a small village school to lose half its pupils is impossible to comprehend, never mind accept. South Wales has known tragedy but Aberfan was different: previous valleys disasters were mining accidents, leaving the women waiting anxiously for news of their husbands. In 1966, men and women shared the vigil, and later the grief.
But Aberfan was a scandal as well as a tragedy. The state-owned National Coal Board ignored all the warning signs. ('Moving mountains' were the talk of the valleys for years before 1966.) The inquiry into the disaster blamed the NCB yet the Wilson government refused to remove the remains of the tip unless the village paid £150,000 from the relief fund towards the costs. It beggared belief that a government could be so callous to a village that had lost everything.
The current Labour government has gone some small way to righting the appalling act of its 1960s predecessor, refunding the money but
Ten years ago, I read the memoir of Gaynor Madgewick. Gaynor was an eight year old pupil at Pantglas. She survived but her brother and sister did not. Her book, Aberfan: Struggling out of the Darkness, movingly describes how that October day changed her life forever. The BBC interviewed her and her father on the 40th anniversary.
I can't claim any contemporary memories of Aberfan: I was three 10 days afterwards. But growing up in South Wales in the 1970s, every time we drove up the valley to Merthyr I couldn't help glancing across to Aberfan and thinking quietly about the events of that terrible day just a few years before.
See Aberfan Disaster website.