07 April 2014


Ten years ago today, I was in the Big Apple, interviewing for a law school scholarship.

I should have been in Rwanda.

There is no should, of course. I got a call from the law school, and I bought a ticket, and I didn't think of the fact that I would miss the 10 year anniversary of the start of the genocide in Rwanda.

I felt like I should have been there, even though being there, the year before, felt like an intrusion into some private grief that I couldn't share.

One April or May morning in Rwanda, up on a mountainside in the mist, I thought about 100 days. 

Because it wasn't just a day of massacres all over the country. It was 100 days - more than three full months - of fear and hiding and panic.

When you go to Rwanda and sit beneath the trees with real people, it's hard to imagine that in those same emerald green hills, in that same perfect sunshine, so very many people died.

I didn't go to genocide memorials until I'd been in Rwanda for over a year and a half. I just couldn't do it. I wanted to see life before I saw what came before. 

When I finally went to a church in the east of the country, and the museum in Kigali, the guides opened mass graves and stepped down into them. One opened a casket for us to see the disintegrating body inside. The damp air smelled of death. 

Out in the garden again, the air was fresh and clean. Flowers grew bold, as they do in the tropics. Kids shouted as they played in the distance.

Rwanda is alive with memory, but it is still so alive.

This church in Kibuye was the site of a massacre. On Sundays, the church is filled with parishioners. The mass grave is outside.

The stadium in Kibuye was another massacre site. Now teams play football next to the cemetery.

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