Monday, February 9, 2009

S21 Museum and the Killing Fields

2/9/09 - 4:00pm, Monday

It's only 4pm and I am emotionally drained. Did I really think by learning as much history of Cambodia, watching the Killing Fields and reading First They Killed My Father, I would be prepared for the "trip" today? The day began with a yoga practice led be Seane (which is always a treat) who was "preparing" us for the day ahead of us. As I began to practice, nausea arose, my sinuses filled with congestion and my head hurt. I felt anxious for a short time and it passed. After the physical practice and the short meditation led by Suzanne, I once again felt "prepared" for the day ahead of me. Suzanne suggested if at any time you lose your ground, just breathe - I thought I could do that, I'm a yogi. We pull up to S21 Museum and split up into 2 groups - Security Office 21, basically a prison. Our tour guide provided us with the history of the Khmer Rouge on the way there, once again "preparing" me what lies ahead. S21 Museum was an old school which was used as a prison during the Pol Pot Regime era - 1975-1979. I began following the tour guide - (forgive me, I'm not sure how to spell his name) listening to every word feeling my heart fill with sadness. As I walked from room to room, seeing a steel frame, leg chains, a small dish, my heart becomes heavy - I breathe as Suzanne suggested and continue. I see the picture of the victim on the wall chained, tortured and a pool of blood around him - disbelief fills me. How could one human being do this to another human being? I walk from room to room seeing and "bare" witnessing the same thing over and over again. My soul is hurting as I feel the sadness around me but my breath continues to ground me. The moment I saw hundred of innocent faces looking at me, my breath seems to disappear. It brought me back to 9/11 when all the pictures of people who were murdered lined the streets throughout NYC including my partner of 15 years, John. The wound I have worked so hard to continually heal is opened up. I stare and look into each of these beautiful people's eyes and become full of sadness and tears. Nobody spared - babies, young children, teenagers, the elderly, men and woman. I see each face with a LIFE behind them - child, maybe a mother, a brother, father, aunt, uncle but knowing these are people that were alive living just like John and all who died on 9/11. My breath is nowhere to be found, tears stream down my face, my heart and soul hurts. My belly feels hollow - I step out and search for my breath. It comes, I wipe my tears and return inside to continue looking as each soul. I'm thankful for Suzanne who told us to breathe. Again, as I continue to look, I'm overwhelmed with how anyone could do this. Our tour guide points at the pictures of the Khmer Rouge Soldiers - the ones with a hat and I feel anger wash all over my body. Anger I haven't felt towards anyone since 9/11. I stepped out once again searching for my breath. I return and look into the soldiers eyes hoping to see a soul. I continue, noticing families live around this prison and it makes me sad. I could just feel the sadness, the torture, the lives taken all around me. An older man who is a survivor shares his story. Again as I look into this man's eyes, I feel and see the pain. He points out the cell he was in and sits down showing us how he sat there. I gasped! It was horrible to witness just a demonstration of it. He was one of seven who survived at S21. The woman and children were kept on the second floor with doors on the cells. Only kept a day or 2 before brought to the Killing Fields to be executed. At one point, I was walking up the stairs, I was forced to stop feeling the torture, pain and ghosts. My belly felt sick, my head hurt, my heart hurt and it was difficult to continue. Suzanne encouraged me along and there were more pictures surrounding me. As we headed back dow, a few of us paused (Suzanne, Brittany, Angela and myself) - we held hands and Suzanne shared a beautiful prayer for these lives. I'm exhausted, emotionally drained with a headache and an upset stomach as I get back on the bus. Wishing we were going back to the room instead of the Killing Fields. The first building we see and enter is a huge building filled with skulls of the victims who were executed. Before entering, I knelt down, prayed for all these lost souls. I walked around looking at the skulls, the clothes they wore and felt numb. The tour guide points out the bodies are in the upper part of the building. I walked around the Killing Fields listening to the tour guide again questioning how this could have happened. As I walked in this open field reading signs of woman and children murdered here, children beaten against this tree and loud speakers hung here - I was numb.

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