Study Tour To Northern Ireland

21 Oct

This past weekend, we were bussed up to Northern Ireland for visits to the cities of Derry and Belfast along with trip to the Giant’s Causeway and The Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. As always, the nature was incredible. No matter how many times I see cliffs of Ireland, they are just as breath taking as before. The Giant’s Causeway, a natural volcanic formation of about 40,000 interlocking columns, to me looked like bunches of giant honey combs. The legend goes that the Giant’s causeway was actually built by two Giants trying to reach each other in order to fight. One was a kind, smart Giant from Ireland, and the other from Scotland. Carrick-A-Rede links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. The Rope Bridge was shorter that I had anticipated, but also much taller than I was expecting, and equally as exciting.

These parts of the trip were indeed incredible. I feel so privileged to be able to visit these amazing locations that so few are able to do. But the part of the study tour that will probably stay with me the most was the political bus tour of West Belfast. Our tour guides were equally members of the nationalist or unionist forces that caused violence in the city at one point in time. Our Protestant guide shared with us stories of a bomb that went off just down the street from where he and his friends were having a pint in a bar one friday afternoon. They heard the loudest bang, about eight seconds of silence, and then everything crashing down. He and his friends went out and the air was thick with grey smoke. They dug through rubble trying to uncover the people who were crying out, trapped. Our guide saw a hand sticking out of the pile, moving, reaching. When he grabbed it and pulled, the arm came clean off. It was the arm of one of his friends, who had been walking on his way to the bar to meet them when the bomb went off. He was sucked into the disaster. He lost both his legs that day, and one arm. It later was determined that he had been trapped under the rubble for two hours, with his legs immobile. This story shocked me. I knew about the history of The Troubles, but it never occurred to me just how recent they were. The guide not so old. He told us more stories of all the attempts made to end his life when he served in the army. About how he found himself trapped under his own car, looking up at a bomb planted underneath it. It made me think of just how many other people still alive who remember the horror and the violence of 30 years ago. In Derry, we visited the Free Derry museum, and the man who lead our tour was the brother of one of the 13 victims who were murdered at the Bloody Sunday Massacre. This was a man who devoted his life to running this museum, talking about and sharing his loss with people, educating them on the true events that occurred there. He remembers the 30th of January, 1972. He remembers what he said to his brother the last time he saw him alive. He had told him to be careful. I could not possibly imagine doing this if I had gone through what he had. I could not possibly even imagine what he went through. All I am able to do is be respectful, and thankful that I was able to visit these cities without any worry of being caught in violence of any kind. And I am so thankful. It was a privilege to visit these cities and pay respects where so many innocents lost there lives. It is important to learn about the horrors of the past so we may prevent their repetition in the future.

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