Omagh remembered

The Omagh Community Youth Choir was playing a series of concerts in New Orleans this weekend.

The group includes Catholic and Protestant teens from the town rocked in 1998 by the deadliest day of violence during “The Troubles.” It was formed in “a defiant act of peacemaking,” reports here. “Glee” with a mission.

I visited Omagh and other parts of Northern Ireland in 2001, three years after the blast and just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in America. I was traveling on a journalism fellowship from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which promotes better relations between Europe and America. Here’s the story I published in the Mobile Register, where I was working at the time.

It was heartening then to see how much progress had been made to reduce violence in the north of Ireland. Re-reading the piece today is a reminder of how much more progress has been made over the past 11 years.

I’m still shaking my head about Martin McGuinness and the Queen shaking hands. Count me among those who are glad they were able to do so.