Civil Rights MemorialThe journey of a lifetime is now coming to an emotional ending. This was an opportunity that I can’t imagine could have gone any better. I really do not know how I will explain the things I have seen or learnt while down here in New Orleans. This city is captivating, it is magical and completely addictive. Walking around the French Quarter on our last day was enjoyable, but very sad. This reminded me of that wall in New Orleans that we saw on our very first day. The wall where people wrote down what they would do before they died. I know what is definite, before I die I will bring my loved ones back to New Orleans to let them see what I saw.

For me particularly the last two check in’s were the most emotional. What happened in Alabama should definitely not stay in Alabama. I will tell my story of what I learnt everywhere I go. Before last weekend I had a very slight knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement but after leaving Selma that sunny Saturday afternoon, I was well informed. To think that only 45 years ago such hate and oppression occurred sends chills down my spine. The Civil Rights Memorial is a wonderful and creative museum in Alabama that pays tribute to the heroes that died for their rights and for our rights. What struck me the hardest was that so many young people were the ones who died. Young girls praying in church one minute and the next their bodies torn apart by a bomb. A young black boy from Chicago visiting the south for a vacation happened to speak to a white woman, this costed him his life. I could really go on for days about how much I saw in Alabama, but I will leave it to all of you to discover it for yourselves. It is the most powerful when you see it first hand. We had the opportunity to walk under the Edmund Pettus  bridge, where the march took place on Bloody Sunday, March 7th, 1965. When we crossed we picked up pebbles. These pebbles were representative of those 2500 heroes who marched that Sunday, these were the stones they stepped on. During check in I let my friends hear my experience of Alabama. But I also shared my feelings about the pebble I collected in Selma. I told them the next time they feel feelings of hate, racism or segregation towards anyone or thing they should remember this pebble and the people that died for us on those rocks. The heroes were the freedom riders, those who marched and anyone who stood up for their right to vote. It is because of them we can be friends with people of any race and share our lives togethor today. We should remember these brave souls and be thankful for the times we live in and the rights we have been given.

I am so thankful for Alabama, for my educators and new friends. I really did not expect New Orleans to become such a big part of my life. This was truly a defining trip which I will never forget. I have learnt so much from the “fascinating” (Thanks Shannon) people on this trip. Each and every one of them are strong, inspiring and courageous people. The citizens of New Orleans are the ones that defined my visit to NOLA. They are some of the warmest and interesting people I have ever met. My role in New Orleans was defined by the looks on their faces when I started helping them heal with whatever help I could provide. NOLA still needs so much help and recovery. I know that I have truly made my mark there and will continue it at some point in the near future.

Much love New Orleans,

Iryna

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