It’s been seventeen years, but I remember.
I remember sleeping with my sister with the lights off, because lights of any kind during the night is dangerous. I remember my Dad went out every night to patrol the neighbourhood with the other dads, while the moms and children stayed at home, and waited.
I remember the aftermath. The blackened buildings, the smoked houses. I remember the shattered glasses on the street, and the feeling of hopelessness. Of chaos. I remember my grandmother saying, ‘Many parents are weeping, for their daughters were raped.’
My Dad telling me that if a fight were due to happen on our block, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill. ‘Better for them to die, rather than our wives and children,’ he said. ‘Better them, rather than us.
‘The rioters might not have anything to lose. Perhaps they just want to rob – to take advantage of the situation. But we, we want to keep our children safe. Our wives would not become preys, nor would our daughters.
‘We were ready to fight.’
I remember the hatred that came after. The prejudice. The distrust and mistrust. I remember friends who told me how they fled to Singapore, to Australia, to the States during the unspeakable days.
I remember, but I don’t understand. We were never told of this piece of history during our school days. There were no manuals, no history books that mentioned it. We knew what happened, we just didn’t talk about it. Sometimes, we whispered, ‘Do you remember what happened back then? How awful.’ But we did just that – we whispered, how awful, yet we never really tell our stories to one another.
Or perhaps it’s just me. I was six. I didn’t know much, and still don’t. I don’t know anyone who’s personally affected by it. We were okay. Our family was safe. And I thought, that was what all that mattered.
Seventeen years later, I feel like wanting to find the answers. What’s your story? I want to ask. What did they do to you?
Have you healed?
Have you moved on?
Have you forgiven them?
There are so many questions, I don’t know where to begin. And there are so many people I want to ask, I don’t know who to start with.
No, don’t tell me about the politics – they don’t mean anything to me. I want to know people, stories.
I wonder, do you remember?
Photo by tranbina, Creative Commons.