Today at my internship, my new friend and coworker stated, “the ground is too thick and the sky is too far away” when we were discussing the war, and I am still mulling through all that it represents. She wanted to hear about our weekend in Tuzla and Srebrenica… all of it. I wish I had been able to properly articulate the difficulties that came with this long, emotionally draining, and unforgettable 3 days, but I fell silent. How do I tell her what I saw and heard without the tears that I have constantly fought back fill my eyes once again? I have never experienced war or loss on such a scale, and I am still digging through the feelings that have surfaced because of it.
It’s one thing to read books and watch documentaries on the war and genocide (which we have done a lot of in preparation for this trip)… It’s another to visit sites. To hear firsthand accounts from survivors. To sit in memorials that you just feel death in. To be shown around by a man whose resilience and kindness exceeds anything you could possibly imagine. To finally fill in blanks from the peace march so I could see the whole picture. It was enlightening, confusing, and heartbreaking to learn and see these things on such a different level.
So, what does she mean when she says this about the war? I think she means exactly how this conflict has left a lot of people feeling. It’s not time to be buried or reach for the heavens… people survived, and what is left is to do is keep on living. The people that we have met have done that, and many have made it their mission and life’s work to make these stories known, to seek justice for families and lost loved ones, and to send an important message about why hating and ‘othering’ people has such dire consequences.
This weekend has been a lesson to me in loss and the power of the human experience. It not only shapes people but lets them keep walking when they thought they could walk no more.