Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014: An Anniversary

March 24, 2014 was a beautiful spring day in my life. The warmth of the spring sun invited early blossoming and birds to sing. On that day, I was in Seoul, South Korea, enjoying my first day of spring break. For residents of a place I called home for four years, the day was a reminder, not of rebirth and renewal, but of the start of events that forever changed their lives. March 24, 2014 was the 15th anniversary of the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia. For 78 days, bombs and missiles fell in Serbia as well as Montenegro, particularly in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.
Even when I was there from 2005-2008, reminders of the bombing were very prominent. On the same street with so many embassies (including the US Embassy), were these bombed-out shells, remnants of what used to be governmental buildings. Graffiti covered remnants of a former TV station where young people senselessly lost their lives. Far from being a clean-cut attack on the government, the citizens were profoundly affected. Over 2,000 civilians lost their lives, including 88 children. My colleagues who lived through the bombing described giving birth without electricity (one maternity hospital was actually bombed), the piercing noise of the missiles whizzing by and then lighting up the sky, seeking shelter during the raids and then observing the damage the following day, and much more. One friend, an excellent photographer and blogger, wrote a book from her perspective and experiences. She also talked about the everyday hardships, such as food and petrol shortages, wondering if the bridge would be there to get to school, how the International School of Belgrade dwindled down to a few students and teachers during that time, how a chemicals from a bombed factory in a nearby town flowed into the river, poisoning all the fish, and so much more. Through talking with her and others, it was powerful reminder of bias - the news media, government, etc. There is always more of the story we don't hear, and perspectives that are not shared - either by choice or neglect.

Below is a documentary of the bombing campaign which seeks to tell the story from some people with direct experiences. Not collateral damage or terrible accidents, but tragic events that forever changed their lives. When watching TV reports (or reading on Flipboard) of news events such as what is currently happening in places such as Syria, let us remember the human side of the events.

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