Thursday, June 10, 2010

Warning: Graphic content

When the height of mass killings swept this tiny country in 1994, many people thought they could go to the churches for refuge as they had during massacres in years before.  In the southern province, those who fled to the churches soon caught word that they were no longer safe houses. Murambi was going to be a technical school. It was nearly constructed in 1994.  It is situated at the end of a long winding hill in a valley surrounded by the country's quintessential rolling hills- hills filled with lush vegetation, wild flowers, echoing the laughter of children. It is inconceivable to imagine that these very hills were stations where the Interhamwe militia waited quietly for Tutsis fleeing for their lives.  Murambi was never a technical school, instead it became a faux-refuge, a trap. Classrooms intended to house equipment for research to nurture the young minds of Rwanda today house the semi-preserved bodies of those massacred there. Twenty four rooms filled with bodies covered in stale white lime. 

After the massacre, the Interhamwe militia bulldozed mass graves. They packed the graves so tightly with bodies, 50,000 bodies, that 3 months later when Tutsi survivors came back to extract their loved ones for proper burial, the corpses were not a day decomposed. Murambi is a memorial.  

On king size bed frames lay the contorted bodies of those murdered. Weaving in and out of the classrooms, I found myself looking into the calm hills for hope, for reassurance, for denial. But there was no solace, only eerie contrast. Sun-touched clouds smiling on rolling hills, broken skulls still coated in remnants of hair. Life existed here? No. Only death exists here today. 

Struggle still painted on their faces, torn dresses, the outstretched corpses of infants, inconceivable.

Flowers growing out of the cracks in the concrete sidewalk, remembrance, humanity?

Walking among strangers, no words. Words? Inconceivable.