It may be long but it is definitely worth the read.
Last night while the group of us were out having a grand ol time at a pub listening to live music sinister things were afoot in the town of Londonderry. Throughout the entire stay in Derry it seemed like the town was truly healing its deep-seated wounds. Everyone was warm and friendly and seemed to all be seeking peace and an end to this conflict. Despite this there will always be hatred in this world, people who strive to cause chaos in the name of “freedom” or “justice.”
Last night a fire bomb was set off in a hotel about two miles from where we were staying. A man walked into the Everglades Hotel and placed a package at the front of the reception. He declared himself a member of the IRA, though the actual IRA has been disbanded for quite a few years and only splinter groups exist now, and he told everyone they had forty minutes to evacuate the hotel. The hotel acted swiftly and was able to get everyone to safety. The bomb exploded while the bomb crews were attempting to disarm it but no one was injured or killed. It has been two and half years since there was even a threat of a bombing here in Derry. Though it may seem like a step back for this city I believe if anything it shows how much the city has changed in recent years. Members from both sides of the conflict had condemned this as a terrible act, and an attack against not just a building, or a people, but the city as a whole. The people of Derry are looking for peace, they are looking to move on from the struggles of the past. Having an attack as this be so widely hated by every member of the community shows a huge amount of growth, and it shows hope that the future will be brighter.
I was going to talk about the bomb attack for this entire post but that was before Judy stumbled across an event happening tonight. It was a little play called Unspoken Love. I really had no clue what to expect from this play. All I knew about it was that it was about mixed marriages in Northern Ireland. I figured it would be pretty sad and dry and just had no real drive to see this. All that mattered to me was that it didn’t cost me anything and that hopefully we would get out of it soon enough so I could go do some homework. So we set out for the play house with my expectations and hopes set pretty darn low.
The venue hosting was a Theater of Witness, a form of play that scripts out the true stories told by the actual individuals. It’s a unique form of theater as these are not trained actors, there just people like you and me with extraordinary stories to tell. Tonight’s show focused on the stories and lives of two mixed marriages in Northern Ireland. Two protestant men and their stories falling in love and marrying two catholic women, each with a unique history. Throughout the entire performance I was on the edge of my seat. They all told terrible stories of heartbreak and loss; happiness and love.
One man, Roley, learned late in his life that he had been put up for adoption by his grandmother, and the girl he thought was his sister was actually his mother. Throughout his entire life he was harassed for being a protestant including daily beatings and shaming. He endured through this pain and fell in love with a women, Jo, who had lost her mother at an early age. Her father was very adamant about her never allowing a protestant man step inside his household let alone marry his daughter. As the years went by his walls crumbled, and this Protestant Roley became like the son he never had, and this catholic man like the father he never had. Of course this marriage only brought more attacks and shame on Roley and Jo. They received death threats in the mail, were followed home at nights, and lived in constant fear for each other. They endured though, they fought on, because religion didn’t matter in their love. They saw each other as people, someone they cared immensely for, and the color of their coat never mattered to them.
The second couple consisted of a women, Sharon, and her husband Stephen. Sharon had grown up with a father who loved the bottle more than he ever loved her. Every night she would sit at the window waiting for him to come home, hoping that he would come home, and often he never did. She spent her entire life looking for someone to fill that void, someone to love her, to show her attention, to care for her. Then she stumbled across Stephen. A recluse who had his entire life focused on teaching and playing golf. For months she tried to get his attention, but he never got the hint. Not until she “accidentally” on purpose left her purse at the golf club was she able to finally get him to take her out. She didn’t realize until a few months later why he had been such a solitary individual, the terrible burden he carried.
Stephen had just turned 18 and was on the way to attending church with his family. Him and his father, a protestant retired police officer, dropped off the rest of the family outside the church and then went to park the car. One instant they were walking from the car park towards the church, the next Stephen was pinned under rubble and rocks. Ears ringing eyes burning he looked to his left where he saw his father. His father was missing his entire face and a majority of his head, he was killed instantly. Stephen had been in the middle of the Enniskillen Remembrance Day Massacre. A bomb placed by the IRA that was meant to target British Soldiers ended up killing 10 civilians and a police officer. While reading about this online it seems like just a statistic. A moment that was a turning point in the troubles and a serious loss of face for the IRA. Right in front of us was a man who had survived this attack, and it was more than just a new story, and article online, a statistic it was real. He found peace finally in his wife Sharon. They each needed each other, in their moments of weakness they knew that they would be there for each other to support to love to care. With this, again, religion never mattered, all that existed was the love.
Hearing these stories was the most powerful experience of the trip thus far. All around me people were crying, I had tears welling up in the corner of my eyes as well. Not for the pain, loss, or suffering that each of these individuals had gone through. Instead I was immensely touched by the sheer force of the love that existed between these couples. The way they stared deeply into each others eyes as they told their stories. The gentle grasping or subtle touch with their hands. The expressions of pain in the faces as their lovers expressed their deepest pains. The way I love you was pure and genuine, no need for it to be written into the script, because it was true, it came from their very core.
Love is the most powerful force that exists in this world. This is something that I have always lived my life by. You have seen this sneak through in some of my other blog posts, that I truly believe in the power of love. We may not always see it but it exists all around us, in people and in places. When two individuals come together caring as much for each other as they do themselves, when they show the truest form of empathy, taking the pain of another upon their shoulders, that’s love. In love sides fall away, prejudices disintegrates, difference lose their meaning, and all that remains is the pure soul of another being, its beautiful. It’s a rare thing it seems, but when you can see it in its true form it can move mountains. This was the perfect ending to our discussion of the troubles. Since the beginning of last years semester we have constantly been exposed to all the complexities of the troubles. We have heard about the atrocities committed by both sides. We have toured the places where this country has seen some of its darkest moments. We stood in the exact places where innocent men women and children were murdered. We were two miles away from where someone tried to drag Derry back into its dark past with a firebomb. We read a letter that seethed with more hatred then I have ever experienced in my life. Despite all this, the thing we end with is hope. Hope that things can change. Hope that despite all the conflict in the history of Ireland the two sides can come together. Hope that his country can move on. Hope that a new light will overwhelm the darkness. Hope in the power of love.