Each morning I get up, rustle around my room searching for my shoes, running pants, hat, gloves, and sweatshirt, ready to brave the cold and welcome the calm of early morning in Derry. I feel the crisp air hitting my lungs with a jolt, a daily reminder of just how alive I am. I make my way down the road to the river and am greeted with a brightly lit, beautiful structure called the Peace Bridge spanning across the river. It connects not only two pieces of land, but symbolizes bridging together one community’s troubled history with a renewed future that is filled with peace and with people who are alive with a passion for family and friends.
Yesterday morning, during my daily running ritual, “Molly Malone,” a song from my childhood my mother used to sing to me popped in my head. “Alive, alive-O. Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O,” the voice inside my head sang. Alive is an adjective that captures and defines so much of the character of Derry. The people I have met and talked with in Northern Ireland fully embrace being alive: by simply distinguishing between living versus dying; by focusing on what is important - family and friends - and valuing and protecting each moment with them; and by their genuine zest for laughter, food, and drink.
Each day in Derry begins quiet and serene, by midday the streets are bustling with people, Protestants and Catholics alike, shopping, going to and from work, and taking their children to school. Theirs is a story of shared grief, shared life, and a shared story of trying to move forward without violence but with mutual understanding. Hope is alive here. Hope for a continued end to the violence that was once an every day occurrence. The violence is part of their history and the story is kept alive as a reminder to never go back, and always continue to move forward; always strive for peace and being “alive, alive-o.”