Monday, June 18, 2012

Life Goes On- Initial Thoughts After Seeing the Genocide Memorials in Ntarama, Nyamata and Kigali

I don't know what to tell you about seeing the Rwandan genocide memorial today in Kigali and the churches in Ntarama and Nyamata. I could talk about the feeling I got of the world collapsing around me as all that I had read over the past five years came to life (or death rather) all around me. How my legs were weak as paper and my heart a pitter pattering mess. How I saw a church filled with huddled families in the piles of torn clothes. How I saw faces in the endless stacks of skulls. How my insides filled with sorrow and grief as I went down into the underground grave. How I knew a terrified child once had that tiny rib I found now nestled in between piles of dusty torn clothes on the church pews. I could talk about a waking nightmare, unimaginable pain, courage, strength or hope. But the weirdest part about it all, other than seeing what humans are capable of, is that life goes on. Next time you think you'll never get through something, remember that time continues to pass. I'm not saying that it will get better. I am saying that life goes on. Somehow.

The sun shines and the birds chirp, even where there was once hell on earth. Even where the ghosts of the dead haunt the memories of the survivors. Even where once ordinary people somehow became murderers, brutal murderers, who raped and tortured innocent friends and neighbors. Murderers who killed babies by smashing them against the wall of a church. On these blood splattered walls the sun shines. Around them, the grass grows. On the street next to them, people ride their bikes. In the towns nearby, people make a living, get married, have babies and cook their families dinner. Life goes on. Somehow. I don’t know how, but it does. I saw it. Today.

Let me leave you with the thought of a little girl named Fillette that I read about in the Kigali memorial. The plaque under her photograph read: “Age: 2, Favorite Toy: dall, Favorite Food: rice and chips, Best Friend: her dad, Behavior: good girl, Cause of Death: smashed against a wall”.

This happened eighteen years ago in the same land where people now sell bananas, harvest crops and eat dinner. People give birth to the next generation of children who can then in turn run around the very fields that were once soaked in blood without the memories of the past haunting them. So, there are many ways that this painful experience has affected me. But what I want to leave you with the thought of is that life goes on. Despite all odds. When it would never seem possible. Somehow. Life goes on.

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