Yesterday four of us took a train to Derry. A city infamously known for Bloody Sunday and the beautiful murals that depicted the Troubles. Two hours after arriving into the station, I was delighted to see the beautiful small city and river that ran through it.
A cabbie was kind of enough to drop us off at a restaurant that was open (very few things are open on Sunday), which was in the city centre near the wall (that divided the Protestants and Catholics for hundreds of years). We walked the wall and every gate had a story about the history of the wall. This wall surrounded the hill part of Derry. Long ago the Catholics lived uphill, until the Protestants settled in, moving the Catholics into the “Bogside,” which was down below. The wall was built to keep a Catholic King from conquering Derry, and the so it became a fortress and eventually a secretarian divider.
From the wall you can see the murals at the Bogside, which looked peaceful and serene. It was difficult to imagine such horror and injustice was carried out on a daily basis for 30 plus years. We walked down through the Bogside and got a closer look at each mural and I felt a sadness come over me. One particular mural of a girl, alone by herself in her school uniform, the title of the mural ”Death of Innocence” and her name Annette McGavigan. A 14 year old girl who was shot by a British solider in 1971, being the 100th victim of the Troubles.
I felt guilty for being a tourist and taking a picture at the “You Are Now Entering FREE DERRY” sign, knowning this sign/stone has seen so many deaths since its been erected. The H Block memorial for the blanketmen was touching as well. A simple granite grey stone in a H shape with a small crack in the middle of the H gave a bittersweet touch to the memorial, while reminding you of all those who died and scarificed their lives for the rights of so many.
The Peace Wall was not what I had expected. For some reason I thought the Peace Wall would be something similar to the Berlin Wall and it definitely was not. Instead of a deary cement wall, it was a high green fence, which clearly divided the Catholics and Protestants, each side of the fence waiving either a British flag or a Republic of Ireland flag.
I left Derry with a smile and heavy weight in my heart. I will not forget how this small city touched me. It’s rich history full of war and murder (both sides), trying to find forgiveness and hope for better days. Happier times. Peace. Thank you Derry for making an ordinary quiet sunny Sunday afternoon powerful and memorable.
Jammie S. Rubio