June 23rd, 2019
6 June 2019
\nToday we visited the Nyamata Genocide Memorial site. Before even getting out of the van, I felt the energy shift. The first Memorial was a museum where everything was behind windows nothing you can really see close up. The church...A church is supposed to be a sacred place, a place to feel safe, a place to feel closer to God. However that wasn't the case. Thousands of Tutsis went there to seek refuge and shelter away from the genocide but the perpetrators didn't care. Before actually going inside we learned about a nun named Antonia Locatelli, an Italian Roman Catholic missionary educator who went against the government in 1992 to protect Tutsis. The government didn't like that and saw her as a threat. So they killed her on the front steps of her home which was right across from the church. Two years later, the entrance gate to the church was blown open by a hand grenade. The metal bars on the door was bent or blown off. The ground surrounding the walk way had huge pot hole like holes. The impact of the grenade also blew holes in the ceiling above. Machine guns, machetes, clubs, spears, anything to harm and kill was used in that church. I saw a door with the doorknob blown off. I looked at the brick walls and saw nothing but holes from the bullets. Dried blood on the walls and the ceiling. There were holes in the ceiling from the hand grenades thrown in the church and from the bullets. Ten thousand people died in that church. The pews were covered with the clothes of the deceased. The real unsettling thing of the clothing was to see the children's clothes. Toddlers to infant clothes. There was a table that had the belongings of the deceased from prayer beads to children's shoes. With seeing all of this I was surprised that virgin Mary, a statue place at the front of the church, remained intact and untouched. It had dried blood on it from the victims but the bullets and grenades somehow missed it. Within the church there was a bottom floor built to preserve the bones and skulls of those who perished. The bones were placed in a glass that had three levels. The bones on the first level, the skulls on the second level and a coffin on the bottom. The skulls showed how most of the victims were killed. Some had slashed cracked skulls which was from machetes. Some had a bullet wound to the head. Some had caved in parts of their skulls which was from being clubbed. It was a very emotional thing to see in person. However, the worst story we learned today was that not only were the women violated and raped but so were the young girls. A young girl at age of 6 was raped multiple times by multiple perpetrators and to finish her off they stuck a spear up her private area until it came out the top of her head. A 6 year old. A child should never have to go through or experience what that child went through. That broke my heart, even the children especially the little girls had to be gruesomely beaten, raped and killed? I felt disgusted but also happy that their pain and suffering was over and they are in a better place. No child should EVER have to indoor what these children sadly had too. To go down to the cellar and see the mass pile up of bones in huge caskets... Some caskets were small and had people in there who died before the genocide but the big ones were for those who died in that church and also from around different sites where bodies were found. Some of the caskets were open so we could see the bones and how many there were in each. It was heartbreaking. I became silent and didn't talk throughout the entire time being down there until the viewing was over. I'm sorry, truly sorry for the lives lost and how they all suffered and died in such gruesome ways. However, I am thankful for being shown and told about these horrible events that had occurred because it doesn't show weakness it shows growth. Growth within a community, city and country.
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My name is Janae' Leonard and I'm a senior Theatre major at Buffalo State. Since I was a little girl I always dreamed of traveling and seeing the world. The one place where I dreamed of going was to Africa. The motherland, the place where life started. I want to go to Rwanda to experience different cultures, hear stories, and learn how to not only love myself but how to give and show love to others in different ways. I want to show people in Rwanda that they matter and their stories matter. It took me a while to understand that I mattered and that my story matters and so I want to show what I learned and express it through love. I plan to go to Rwanda open minded and open hearted. I want to take in as much as I can and bring it back home with me where I can share everything I learned and felt through story, song, acting and other mediums.