Last April 20th I attended a beautiful program commemorating the Armenian genocide at the Glendale High School auditorium from where my children graduated a few years ago. My daughter was one of only two non-Armenian students who took the Armenian language program. Wednesday’s program included talented dancers, singers, speakers and video footage of the genocide. The moving tribute inspired me to write the following essay.
By Herbert Molano
What is it like? How does it feel to be stranded in the desert hungry, weak, and injured with two young children looking up to you for sustenance and comfort where there is none to give except the shade you provide them from the sun?
The ground is hot under your feet. Your lips are blistered and your mouth parched. You try to extract a few consoling words to your young children, Armine and Garo, but instead you cough out phlegm and sand. “Where is momma?” Armine asks. She looks around at the hundreds of ragged people staggering aimlessly near the rail road tracks hundreds of miles from the nearest village. There is no food in sight. No water. No mother to whom to reach out. As she turns to embrace you she hears a loud thud near her. She looks back. An elderly man has just fallen face first into the sand. He is not moving. She stares waiting for him to regain his strength and pull himself up to breathe. He doesn’t move.
Armine reaches out instead to embrace her smaller brother and cover his eyes. She doesn’t want him to see the inevitable fate that awaits them. She’s taken the role of comforter. She is eight years old, but in the past few weeks she’s become a surrogate mother to Garo. She’s seen more horror and cruelty in the last few weeks of her young childhood than anyone deserves to see in a lifetime.
You feel as if in a daze. Your mind drifts back to the days when you told them funny stories and their innocent laughs filled your soul with the purest essence of life. Who will remember them? Who could comprehend the anguish of a grandparent watching his grandchild collapse and die in his arms. Who could bear the sorrow of a father too weak to bury his child in the cruel dry desert heat?
Who will remember the lives that were so vibrant once, or think of a future that would never be fulfilled? If only we can grasp the magnitude of the atrocity, it could motivate us into action.
Genocide – Never again.