Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas and bombings don't go together.

You may have heard, Christmas is right around the corner. 

Have you ever worried about getting shot while out searching for that perfect Pollyanna gift?
Do you wonder if you'll be able to get through a day of shopping without hearing the sounds of a bomb going off in a nearby place of business?

If your lucky like me, the answer to both those questions will be no.

Eimear O'Callaghan wasn't so lucky. I know this because I read her diary. She doesn't mind. It's in book form on Amazon.

Eimear is about the same age as I, possibly the exact same age. She kept a diary during the year 1972.
As I read it, I kept thinking about where I was and what I was doing during that time and comparing my life in peaceful Pennsylvania to hers.
There is no comparison.

She grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland and the year 1972 wasn't Northern Ireland's or Ireland's greatest moment. Just one month into the new year a massive military operation in Derry's Bogside ended in the murder of 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators and the wounding of 15 others.
That day will forever be known as "Bloody Sunday" and is the day "The Troubles" began, which lasted decades resulting in thousands of lives lost. In a nutshell this conflict was between Protestant Loyalist's and Catholics. The Catholics wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland. The loyalists did not.

Below is the Bogside, the site of Bloody Sunday as it looks today.

On January 30th 1972, the British Military rolled down that street in the foreground pictured above and killed and injured innocent unarmed protestors. ( This is now a proven fact, as of 2010 when the BSJC ( Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign ) announced the results of the latest inquiry. The British government actually issued an apology, which was a surprise to many.

 The author of the book, "Belfast Days" documents what it was like to live in West Belfast during the year immediately after "The Troubles" began. She was in High school at the time and her account is both riveting and terrifying.

 As I read her diary, I was astounded that she could write about mundane things like going to school, maybe doing some shopping and then, oh yeah, there were 2 explosions and a shooting today. Her entries are in this a matter of fact style that is both impressive and scary all at once. I asked myself, how could this young girl write about these atrocities that were happening daily in her neighborhood with such normalcy? How could she live with such fear?

Well, obviously, this was her norm. There were over 350 people killed during that year. In one 24 hour period there were 28 bombs set off.

Her entry into the diary for Friday, Dec 1st really hit home for me. She writes,
"Dad didn't get home till 6:15. We were all scared stiff with all the assassinations of Catholics, one never knows the next victim."
"Watched Miss World, won by Miss Australia. Then came the news. 2 bombs exploded in centre of Dublin. 2 dead, more than 70 hurt. A Catholic shot in Antrim."

This particular entry resonates with me because there is a really good chance, that when Eimear was watching Miss World that particular day after fearing for her Father's life, I was doing the same in a place seemingly a world away, the difference being I knew my Father would be coming home safe and sound. There would be no explosions or gunshots. A tradition at our house while I was growing up would be for the family to gather around the TV when Miss USA or Miss World was on. We would all have our paper and pen and we would keep track, score the contestants ourselves and see who would choose the winner at the end of the night.

She writes that as 1972 rolled on, "Terror, fear and despair were frequent."

Happily, Eimear O'Callaghan is alive and well today. Her family made it through that terrible period without the worst happening. I guess she was lucky.

If you're looking for a interesting read, pick up "Belfast Days." I recommend it.


Jerral Miles said...

We keep on messing up a beautiful earth... What's that about anyway? Why can't we stop?

Busy Bee Suz said...

Wow-what a contrast. I often say out loud: How lucky we are to have been born in this part of the world. Very lucky indeed.