ChileBy Tarin Gonzalez

40 Years Later

Today, as the world remembers those whose lives were taken during the terrorist attack in New York City, D.C. and flight 93 in 2001, there are millions of Chileans that remember their loved ones who were killed and tortured 40 years ago during the hostile military takeover of the Salvador Allende administration. 

For the past two weeks, on TVN (Television Nacional de Chile), they have been showing documentaries of what happened on September 11th, 1973 as well as interviews with family members of those killed under the Pinochet regime, many were suspected of being communist or leftist.  We also watched and listen to 100’s of people talk about what they saw and where they are now 40 years later, but what was most interesting to me in these past two weeks, was hearing my mom talk about her experience.

 “One night, I crawled on my hands and knees onto the balcony in the house I worked in, below was la Calle Providencia, I was scared but I wanted to see what was happening. I peeked over and saw a small group of men and women who had been caught after curfew hours by the military. I could see the soldiers speaking to the group. I then saw the group run, run away from the military. I thought, okay, the soldiers told them to run home. Instead, the soldiers opened fire on them from behind as they ran, killing them all”. This story was once told to me with tears in her eyes, evidently being one of the most traumatic events she had witnessed in her life. My mother told me this story again a couple of days ago, no longer with tears in her eyes, but with a sense of relief. As if with every word she felt more empowered. She feels that now, after 40 years, that her friends, those who were killed and tortured, will get finally get justice. This was just one of the many experiences my mom can recall.

 My father on the other hand, has not been able to vocalize what he experienced with the exception of one story. “It was chilly in the morning. I was cold. I can’t remember who gave me this blanket, but I had one. I woke that morning, like many other mornings to a voice, the voice of a little girl. I couldn’t see clearly. I had not washed my face in days. I could make out the silhouette of her small body outside the stadium gates and she’d yell “Papito Juan”.  As if hoping that her daddy will hear her and he’d yell back, I’m here! After, several times, all those around me knew who Juan was, because every time we heard that voice, a man would get up and walked away from the voice, sit down and weep. We just didn’t know if we were going to get out of here alive”. My father tells this story only when he’s drunk, which is not that often. Watching him tell this story gives me goose bumps. He tells it crying as he tries to mimic the yell of that little girl. Unfortunately, that voice will forever haunt him the same way her actions will forever haunt me.

 Today, my thoughts are with all those men and women who were killed and tortured, with all the grandmothers that walk the streets in silence, not knowing where their grandchildren are or what they look like or the thoughts of walking past them and not recognizing them. I’ll think about all the families who don’t know where the bodies of their love ones rest. I’ll think about those babies who are now adults and demand justice for the murder of their mothers and fathers. I’ll think about a generation that will demand to live in a just world.