Last weekend, we took an educational tour to Northern Ireland. I am not proud to admit this but, I honestly had no idea that the conflicts that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s in Northern Ireland actually took place. During our Pre-Departure Orientation in Boston, one girl asked if the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants still existed and I was not aware of what she was referring to. As a “History-buff”, I was interested to learn about the war that went on not long ago.
In the Museum of Free Derry, I was shocked that the tour guide John Kelly could give tours everyday and reflect on his brother (Michael Kelly)’s brutal death in such great detail. When John showed us the letter that families of the victims of “Bloody Sunday” received from “their enemies”, I was blown away. The fact that someone could send a letter filled with pride for killing their son to a mourning family is unbelievable. The next day, when we went to Belfast, when we went on our tour with our guide Mark, I was horrified by the details of what happened in the city, to himself, his friends, and others. I couldn’t believe what he was telling us; I started to take notes so that I could tell my family back home all that I learned. The fact that he has had three death threats and at one point looked under his car to see a car bomb attached underneath is mind-blowing. I was also influenced by the details Mark told us about the Shankill Road Bombing and his first person account of being there and participating in the rescue crew. I was saddened to hear about Mark’s friend that was on his way to meet him at a nearby bar and was extremely injured in the bombing. It is very eye-opening to see the collateral damage of war and how innocent people like children can be affected in a conflict they know nothing about. This trip was one that I was not expecting to enjoy as much I did. I learned far more than I could have ever wished to and hope that more people will visit Northern Ireland and see the effects of war and realize the importance of peace in the world. -Tori Sullivan