Walking into Potočari after spending roughly three days in the Peace March was an emotional event. A multitude of people lined both sides of the street as they observed those who hiked the path and exited the forest into a city filled with emotion. Silence. No one clapped, hardly anyone smiling. Just a tacit knowledge of reverence that filled the air. Nodding of heads in a sign of respect; winks symbolizing the same gesture.
The commotion commenced when the previously identified bodies from mass graves were brought into the cemetery in green caskets hoisted above the shoulders of the four people carrying them. The 175 bodies and their accompanied caskets were neatly situated in rows and columns that lined the outskirts of the cemetery. After a prayer and other ceremonial gestures, the bodies were taken to their graves where relatives, friends, and even bystanders helped shovel dirt on the burial grounds.
A week later, the students including myself returned to this cemetery for a formal visit that had been planned in advance. Only a handful of us experienced the ceremonial events that commemorated the genocide only a week before. Now the place was empty, desolate. There was definitely a different vibe than I had experienced only seven days prior.
The event was hardly covered in the international media and I felt a sense that it had already been forgotten and abandoned even more so after my second visit. I and other colleagues visited Srebrenica before our travels and I noticed a change between reality that occurred before the crowds arrived and then the subsequent feel of the city when the hype of the event the day of July 11th happened. I hope to never forget not only the emotion that encompassed the ceremony but also the sense of longing of remembrance that cries out from the grave and the people survived by the war.
Bosnian people, I am deeply sorry for your loss. I also want to thank you for welcoming me into your community during my time within the march and by demonstrating to me the events that conspired directly after. You are very strong and I hope the world never forgets the events that took place only recently.