Feb 15, 2013

51 Mounds of Earth

Standing there on the red earth I turn my head towards the setting sun. The beauty of it is lost on me. It cannot lift the sorrow I feel, neither the dejection nor the anger.

I’m alone in this place of sorrow. The wailing has stopped; the platitudes have been repeated ad nauseam. Yet, I cannot bring myself to accept the horror. I reject it.

I close my eyes remembering what unfolded here a few hours ago.

The families arrived first in hired vans, buses and personal vehicles. They were a large mass of people propelled by the enormity of their grief; each and every person dealing with their personal loss. I saw the confused children unsure of what to do in the midst of the commotion, the wailing, and the clang of shovels hitting the dirt.

As the hearses drove in, a brief moment of silence fell. All that could be heard was the soft purr of engines running. We stood, shock still as 21 vehicles rolled towards us.

Someone, I’m not sure who, cried out “shiMwandu bakuleta mucitumbi!” The silence was broken.

The dignitaries came last. They came in their sleek motorcades, flags flapping briskly in the breeze. Under the big tent they sat, exchanging words we could not hear. At us they talked – “we are united today as a nation in this grief. We share the burden together.”

As I heard these words I looked at the grandmother now responsible for three orphaned children. A pensioner already struggling, is she comforted by these words? What burden is being shared with her? The three frightened children now without their mother, will we unite to help them once the tears shed today have dried?

Lifting my camera I snapped a picture. They are the human faces of this tragedy. It is their stories that must be told and re-told. In the face of our greatest tragedies we boldly proclaim “Never Again!” It is my job to remind us of these promises as we stare into the sorrow filled eyes of those who lost someone. We cannot forget, and we should not forget.

It’s getting dark now and the cool breeze sends a slight chill through my body. I take one last look at the mounds covered with flowers now wilted from the sun’s harsh rays. They are only part of the story. They represent the 51 lives lost on that road notoriously known as Hell Run.

51 mounds of earth holding within them the bodies of somebody’s mother, father, sister, brother, son and daughter. Nameless and faceless no longer; they will remind of us of the promises we made this day – Never Again. 

-   The End -


My heart is completely broken after reading your poignant words...I have been thinking about the tragedy and praying for the families but not as much as I should have been. And on my knees I go again.


thanks for reading. This tragedy has really touched more people than many of us realise. And it's from this mind frame that the words above spilled out. It was oddly therapeutic.

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