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Friday, January 10, 2014

The Never Forgotten Community

By: Julie Mills

It has been a week now since arriving to this windy, rainy, yet beautiful town of Derry, Northern Ireland. As I walked away from my interview yesterday with Richard Moore, I felt a sense of peacefulness. What an amazing man and what an even more remarkable town. After listening this past week to the stories of violent activities that have happened in this town, I still did not feel scared or worried about walking by myself from Richard's workplace back to the hotel. I actually felt more relaxed and safer than I do back in the states. I definitely felt a sense of belonging. Every person I passed said hi and gave me a smile. I was fortunate enough to see the children leaving school with their mummies; how cute they were in their uniforms, little boys with shirts and ties and little girls with skirts and sweaters. If just visiting this town and not knowing the background, one would not know this is where shootings and house invasions happened every day not so long ago.

While walking around town

Yesterday Maria and I got to spend an hour talking to our new friend Rory. He told me about the times his dad would get taken from their house when he was a child. He would hear a loud pounding at the door, and the British soldiers would invade their house and then take his father away for questioning. This became a routine while he was growing up. When his father would come back home usually seven days later, his mum would tell the kids to run the bath while his mum stripped their dad naked and put him in the bathtub. He said what he remembers most is the smell of his father's clothes, the smell of blood and soil from his father being beaten and not being able to eat or shower during that time he was being questioned. Rory also told me his father would fall asleep for an hour while he was imprisoned and then get awakened by a blow to the head from one of the police officers or soldiers. The reason they let them sleep for a short amount of time and then awaken him again was to try to get more information while he was most vulnerable.

One of the things Rory said that helped the people get through these Troubles was his community. Instead of going to the police for help, because they could not trust them, they went to their neighbors. At any time someone could walk into a neighbor's house and join them for dinner or coffee. The houses were always open. Even during the Troubled times, nobody locked their doors. The soldiers could come in, and there was no way they were going to stop that. The folks would keep their doors unlocked for family and friends to come and go when they needed.

Unforgetable friendships
It has been a few days since we did the bead exercise with Eamonn and John. Yesterday Dr. Hazel talked about empathy and really understanding the emotional state of another person. I now understand why we had that bead exercise. Just as the people of Derry learn to heal by listening to each other's side and then being able to empathize with that person, we were also able to empathize with each other by listening to their stories, some of loss of loved ones, some going through tragedies, some people just feeling hurt and sad from different situations in their life. The most important thing I learned from doing that exercise is we now all belong to our own special community. Just as the people of Derry lived in their own communities and felt like they belonged to a very special community, we the class of Derry 2014 also belong to a very special community.
Derry 2014 forever memories!

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