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The Next Generation: Learning from History



29th of June, 2016


Cambodia '16

Today our SSTS group visited two very emotional areas, the S-21 torture camp and the Killing Fields. Our trip to s21 invoked numerous emotions in the first building of the abandoned school screamed pain.

(editor’s note:  the photo is of a contemplative SStS student on the grounds of S21)

The building had the beds of victims paired with the photos of how they were found. Mutilated, burned, and unrecognizable bodies littered all of the barred rooms. The S21 camp is split into multiple buildings because it had originally been a school. When I travelled to the second building, I witnessed the conditions in which the prisoners were held. The first floor has fuller of cramped cement cells and these cells would hold a group of around four naked prisoners.  The second floor filled me with each dread. There was a hallway connecting multiple rooms and all the rooms held a small wooden cell. The cells reminded me of a pirate ship. I gazed into the pirate-like cells and envisioned the cold dead eyes of a prisoner staring back at me. I staggered away from the cell but I vividly imagined a plethora of hands pushing their way out of the small window one the cell. All of the hands reaching for nonexistent hope. In the next building I saw the the photos of prisoners– hope, dread, and fear lingered in many faces but most had cold, dead pupils. It seemed as though they were hollow shells awaiting their inevitable death. Next to the mug shots of prisons, an assortment of torture devices. Next to the instruments was a painting of how these weapons were used on prisoners. Whippings, drownings, and painful practices that shocked my eyes. Were the people who carried out these acts even human? Did they have any sympathy? Tools of torture were not the only instruments of pain in this wretched camp; ankle chains and paintings of these chains depicted that prisoners were bound together in the dozens. Human rights were nothing in this place. Outside of all these buildings there is a memorial that had all the names of the people that went through  that horrific place. The memorial had an almost never ending list of names.

After s 21 we took a tour of the killing fields that showed me the devastation that he Khmer Rouge had on Cambodia. The fields did not adults suffering like S 21, but it had a sense of dread. I looked across a lush pasture that had large indentations in it. I later was told that these holes were where hundreds of bodies were dumped. Skeletons do not haunt these holes anymore, though all the bodies have been transferred into a large tower of bones.

It is difficult to understand why these things happened. But it is important to learn about the history so we can do everything we can to keep it from happening again.



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