BY SEÁN P. FEENY
HUNDREDS of well-wishers gathered at Letterkenny’s Market Square yesterday evening to welcome home Mount Everest summiteer Jason Black.
Jason was led down Main Street by Letterkenny Town Band and Letterkenny Accordion Band and was greeted at the Market Square by Letterkenny Mayor, Dessie Larkin.
Councillor Larkin, who officiated the homecoming, said the large attendance made up of Jason’s staff from Voodoo and Black’s Centre, the various clubs and organisations he has been part of, and the wider community was a great reflection on him.
He said: “On behalf of the town council and everyone in Letterkenny I would like to welcome Jason back home to the town. We are all very proud of him today. I have known Jason for many years, he is one of my best friends, and I know how much this journey meant to him.”
The only question that Jason wouldn’t answer for the mayor, is the one Cllr Larkin said all married men wanted to know, how had he been allowed to go away for over six weeks. Jason just smiled and said ‘no comment’.
An emotional Jason said he was overwhelmed by the sight of the large crowd at the Market Square: “There is nobody happier than me and my wife Sharon to see you all here today, especially the young children of 1st Letterkenny Scout Group.
“20 years ago next week I met Dawson Stelfox and the first Irish team to summit Everest at the regional college and it left a strong mark on my life.
“The idea of climbing Everest kept coming back to haunt me throughout those years and six years ago I knuckled down and started training for the summit. I never thought it would really happen, but it did and I am just so chuffed to be here tonight.”
On the day he reached the top Jason said he thought of his late mother, whom he had lost when he was 17 years old, and said he knew she was there with him.
“To reach down into my big and take out the Donegal flag was just mind-blowing. And knowing that my mother was there with my, there’s never been a prouder moment.”
Jason said he was overwhelmed by the feedback he received when he first switched on the computer again on his way home.
He said: “I had no real contact with anyone at home apart from Sharon during all that time and when I turned on the Wi-fi on the computer during a stop over in Abu Dhabi I was blown away by what I read and the tears were flowing. The response from my community was overwhelming.”
Jason now hopes to spread a positive message to the youth of Donegal and inspire people to overcome their own Everests, what ever they may be.
“There is no mountain that can’t be climbed, everyone has their own Everest, whether it is getting up in the morning and fighting depression or something else.
“I’d like to pass on a message over the next few weeks, especially to the youth, that if you focus on a goal, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved.”
This is John's first trip to the World Championships where he will come up against full-time professionals.