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Home SOAW LATINA Historia del movimiento SOA Watch Janice Sevre-Duszynska
Janice Sevre-Duszynska PDF Print E-mail
by Janice Sevre-Duszynska (the essay was published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on January 16, 2002)

I walked with 10,000 other mourners at a funeral procession in Georgia in November. Sometimes we sang out grief-stricken dirges. Sometimes we prayed in whispers. Always we moved with solemn lamentation.
"Presente," we chanted in the Benediction melody of the Litany of the Saints. At the gates of Fort Benning, we were remembering hundreds of the thousands of martyrs, many under the age of 10, slaughtered by Latin American soliders trained at the taxpayer-supported, Army-operated School of the Americas.
There's ample evidence of the school's role: from the United Nations, from eye-witness survivors, from a retired Army major and former instructor at the school, recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
Many in Congress acted on this evidence last May. Only 10 more votes and the school for terrorists would have been shut down.
But it wasn't, and that's why I went to Georgia.
Somebody has to remember the dead: 3-week old and 6-month old infants, toddlers of 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. Children, ages 5 through 12. And all those teenagers -- the same age as the kids I've taught for the past 12 years, refugees from around the planet.
There's Angelina from Chiapas in Mexico, with her eyes fearful as she remembers being wakened by the tread of herds of soldiers invading her neighborhood. There's Laila from Kuwait, who writes repeatedly about how her parents and six brothers and sisters crammed into a car, drove to the border and narrowly escaped as the Persian Gulf War began.
There's Marie from Haiti, who saw burning bodies in the streets on her way to school. There's Ivan, whose father never came home from the war in Azerbaijan. There are Bosnians: two Maidas, two Nadas and Slavko, who lived in refugee camps. There's Sejko, who was shot, and Milan, his brother; and Suljo, Bosko and Mile. They told about piling onto tractors that filled their Bosnian streets in frantic leave-taking. There are Mimoza and Leart from Kosovo, who lost three uncles.
Maybe you would like to hear about the Vietnamese families? Or Palestinians and Israelis? Or my newest students, Miroslav and Goran from Croatia.
Come to my classroom, and I'll show you the world -- and its suffering.
Away from all the terror, the youngsters know they are all connnected by their experiences, to one another. I know they are also connected to those in the litany of the dead in Latin America, victims of the teachers at the "school" at Fort Benning.
I crossed the line at the end of my praying group. Ahead of us, were the people of the "die-in," dressed in black with ghoul-like faces splattered with blood. As we moved beyond the gates onto federal property, we continued our mantra of "Presente," giving voice to the voiceless, naming them, sensing the mystery of their spirit.
"You are violating federal law by entering this military property," a military person announced.
The die-in began. We could no longer hear "Presente" from beyond the gates. While the witnesses re-enacted the deaths of innocent civilians, we knelt. I began to sing. Others joined in: "Where true love and charity are
found, there is God."
Immediately, the arrests began. The military flipped the people of the die-in onto their bellies and secured their wrists with white plastic tape. We kept singing.
I was the last they came to tie up and arrest.
"Put your hands behind your back," said one of the military people in camouflage fatigues. I did so. I kept singing. As I felt the tightness of the tape binding my wrists, I tried to imagine what it must have felt like for the innocent civilians whose hands were tied behind their backs before they were shot by School of the Americas graduates, who then desecrated their bodies.
However, like others witnessing here from across the country, I was fully aware that I had chosen this moment and its consequences through my own free will.
We were lined up across the road and told to kneel on the curb. We obeyed and continued chanting. My throat was dry now, and my voice raspy, but we continued our musical prayer: "Let us build the city of God. Let our tears be turned into dancing. For the Lord, our light and our love, has turned the night into day." After awhile, the buses came, and we continued, drowning out their modern, recorded music with Amazing Grace.
Inside Fort Benning, they took our pictures and fingerprinted us. They gave us a ban-and-bar letter, effective for five years.
If the School of the Americas is still open next year, I'll be there.
I'll cross the line again, even though it could mean a prison sentence. I ask you to help us close this "school," so I can stay in mine.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska of Lexington, teaches English as a Second
Language
 

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