The things you can’t forget

So far I have visited three genocide memorial sites in Rwanda – in Kigali,
Ntarama, and Nyamata. Today, I’m visiting three more – Bisesero, Nyange
Secondary School and Nyange Church. My goal is to see how Rwanda tells the
story of the 1994 genocide that devastated the country, and how some of the
survivors feel about the fact that these sites are attracting so many
foreign tourists.

One one level, visiting these sites as a journalist can feel somewhat
clinical, my notetaking acting as a kind of shield or filter between me and
the tragedy that I’m absorbing. But when I get a moment to myself, I start
thinking about things more metaphysically. Does the dust I inhaled at
Ntarama contain the cells of the dead whose bones lie in the church where
they drew their last breaths? Nyamata, the site of another church where
people were slaughtered, sits adjacent to a primary school where the happy
shrieks of playing children pierce the heavy silence resting over the
church pews. If you are a mother who lost a child in that holy place turned
abbattoir, with a statue of the Virgin Mary looking down on pews piled with
bloodied clothes, would you find that childish noise comforting, or

-Stephanie Siek