I was a half a world away from the genocide unfolding in the country of Rwanda.
I was actually, for a 16 year old, kind of up on current events. I mean, I payed attention more than your average bear. And I vaguely remember hearing something about Rwanda...something about "tribal warfare" and a lot of killings.
Now I'm 31, and I've studied the event extensively. I know now that the word "genocide" was carefully left out of the American press. That the United Nations failed miserably in their attempts to keep the peace. And that in a country of less than 8 million people, almost a million died. That would be like if the United States today, with a population of 300 million, lost 45 million people.
In three months.
I've become increasingly frustrated with the big talk but lack of action from world leaders on the genocide in Darfur. I'm doing what I can to get my students aware of the situation and trying to help, despite the lack of attention to it by the American press. So when I heard that Paul Rusesabagina was coming to speak near us, I had to take some students. And I had to be there, too.
Because part of me is still ashamed. Mad that I was alive during that awful 100 days. And that I didn't do anything; that I didn't even know. So to meet such a hero...to thank him, to shake his hand and tell him how much he inspires me...it meant more to me than I can put into words.
And from listening to them on the bus ride home, I think it meant a lot to them, too. And hopefully, will inspire them to act.