Students Bond Despite Bombs

A day before three American teens arrived in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, a 500 pound car bomb exploded. Thirty-five people were injured and 200 buildings in a shopping district were damaged, including a shoe shop where Claire Dodds, a Protestant, worked.

"All they said was that there was a bomb in Banbridge," said Bruce Seton, a friend of Dodds, "and that there was destruction everywhere. The bomb had actually gone off across the street from where Claire works. The windows in the store were all blown out. There was all this wreckage, and it just spilled out on the street."

Susan McKernan, a Catholic, was working at a nearby fruit store, and heard the bomb go off.

"They didn't want us to see the terrorism or the bad side of their lives," said Neil Casey, McKernan's friend, "the same way I wouldn't want someone to get mugged over here.

CBS News Correspondent Paula Zahn reports that the Irish and American teenagers met last summer in Wilmington, Delaware, through a peacekeeping group that brings Protestants and Catholics together.

"People who wouldn't know each other get to know one another and get to be friends with each other," said Casey, "and once people cease to be an ambiguous group it is hard to have prejudices against people that you know very well."

For Teresa Sullivan, the trip to Northern Ireland showed that the relationships the teenagers had built among the Catholic and Protestants teenagers were holding up, in spite of increasing tensions at home.

"The Catholics weren't blaming the Protestants, and the Protestants weren't blaming the Catholics," said Sullivan, "they all just wanted the violence to end."

During their second week of their trip another car bomb exploded in Omagh, 45 miles from Banbridge, set off by the same group responsible for the Banbridge bombing. Twenty-eight were killed and 220 were wounded.

"It was one of those things where everybody just goes, 'We were just there!' It was a big shock to everybody," said Seton.

"I think the most we can do is offer our moral support and in our own way set a good example," added Casey.

But, as Correspondent Zahn reports, when the American teenagers think about a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, they think about the leaders of tomorrow and they think about their Irish friends.

"They will know they have friends that are Protestant and Catholic," said Sullivan, "and they will know that there is no reason for them to dislike one another, and they should get along."

Reported by CBS News Correspondent Paula Zahn
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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