It’s quite strange to me that I grew up singing the U2 hit “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, yet I had no idea what the lyrics truly meant. I doubt anyone I know that used to sing along with me had any shred of a clue as to the events that inspired the ballad. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to Northern Ireland to learn about the tragedies and horrors that occurred inspiring so many songs and poems pleading for peace.
Twenty years ago, it would have been unheard of for a tourist to safely explore the battlegrounds of Northern Ireland. It’s surreal to think that just two decades ago, bombs were flying, houses were being burned, and innocent men, women, and children were being murdered in the name of what? Religion? Patriotism? It almost seems foolish to an outside perspective, but putting myself in the shoes of those who lived through the horrors, it was deeply rooted hate that fueled it all. Hate turned neighbors into enemies and local shops into mass murdering sites. To see the scenes of such destruction and hear stories of those affected by the terrible events was really quite humbling.
Safety in my home has always been a given. I’ve been fortunate to be completely and totally free to go anywhere in my home and the surrounding area without fear of being harmed. Fighting and terror has always been something that seemed so far away from reality and everyday life, but in Northern Ireland it was once a given. While people walked, ate, and lived freely and safely in the United States, terror and destruction reigned in Northern Ireland. After seeing the effects of such terror and seeing each and every name on the countless memorial walls, I will never take my safety for granted again.
Not only was my trip to Belfast and Derry a humbling experience, it was also one of magnificent sights. In addition to the fantastic tours we [the NUin program] were given, we were given the opportunity to explore the beautiful cities as well as Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. These places were a beautiful contrast to the harsh truths we learned about the area. The natural beauty of Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge only added to the magical aura of Ireland, while the striking murals of Belfast and Derry served to remind everyone who sees them of the terror and horrors that the people of these cities endured in the most beautiful way. In all, my trip to the North of Ireland was one of great gain in insight and perspective. Each of the things I saw moved me in its own way and I feel nothing if not thankful for the chance to experience it all.