The sky was a dark grey as the wheels turned towards the town of Belfast. The turmoil seemingly settled, but the town is still hurting. With graffiti lining the walls and many homes abandoned. Tumbleweeds of trash scurry in swirls of wind. The streets once filled with violence as people sought to make their wants known. Murals line some places of the town that are in tribute of those who fought and died for the cause. One of them had five college students that died in various situations during the violent years of Belfast. They died in the wake of their passion. The cause was worth their life to them. 20 something’s trying to speak up for justice. Something I see today in many forms. It broke my heart to see the tall wall that stands as a barrier between the two sides of the conflict in Belfast. Signatures and messages of hope filled the space on the wall. But the brokenness showed as some wrote “F*** Peace”. I knelt down to write “Love speaks above all”. As I signed my name I recognized the thousands that have come to view this wall. From those who experience the prejudice every day to students seeking peace for the turmoil. With dark clouds above, there was an uneasy feeling in the streets. Nervous and power ridden eyes that have seen and live in a city that has experienced so much violence.
The pride of Belfast rests on their well known ship building business. One of their ships built here is the Titanic. We ventured through the four story interactive museum exhibition about the building, voyage, and disaster of the Titanic. The engineers and designers of the Titanic seemed prideful in their persistence that the Titanic was practically unsinkable. Even during the building of the Titanic men died in the shipyard. The conditions of the city were crowded, and living quarters were tight. The pollution of the air and river were overwhelming. People from all around flocked for work. From linen mills to ship building, people worked over 52 hours a week. Such a price to pay it seemed to create luxury ships. A human cost. The men designing the ships made such money, yet now many of those ships rest on the coasts of developing countries creating a greater human cost due to the danger of taking apart large ships. One of the many prices of Industrialization.
Beyond the building of the Titanic, I stepped into watch a screen display the sinking of the ship. The sound of outcries and people coming to terms with resting their lives at sea. Many heroes were aboard the ship who helped as many as they could to safety. But some knew it was the end for them. Quotes were written on the display of some peoples’ last sayings heard. Many were testaments of love. When all hope was lost they turned to love. Beyond tragedy, people still speak in love and only want to be near those they love when their story comes to an end.
Towards the late afternoon we headed for our hostel in Belfast, only to find it was abandoned! After spending a bit of time in a local Irish home, we ventured to our upgraded accommodations elsewhere. It was a bit humorous and no one seemed too bothered that the hostel was completely abandoned.
After dinner we went to a wonderful concert in an old church. The musicians are well known in Ireland and it was a privilege to hear such musicianship. The sweet sounds of the baby grand piano, stringed instruments, and traditional Irish instruments resounded against the church walls. The riffs and melodies played to the tune of my heart and I could not help but tap my feet. Even after the concert I danced around in the street with my fellow peers. I felt completely alive as we sang the tunes long after the concert and let ourselves express joy through movement and laughter. Such a moment of pure joy. Experiencing Irish culture through music is such a beautiful blessing that moves my heart beyond the sadness of the history of turmoil and violence. Music expresses the peace, the joy, the history, the community, and the love for this country. Even through music, love speaks above all.