Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Remembering June 4
I was in high school when the tragedy of Tiananmen Square occurred. I'll be honest, I really didn't pay it any attention at the time.
But going to Tiananmen Square as an adult affects me to this day. I will never forget the first time standing there in the massive concrete square, surrounded by thousands of Chinese. It was almost surreal. There I was, a young American teacher, surprised to be standing there. Wanting to weep, but expected to be the happy tourist.
I was watching people play and laugh, take pictures and fly kites when all the while feeling I was standing on almost sacred ground.
Here. People stood. People protested for the freedom and liberty most of us take for granted.
And here they died. Shot. Crushed by tanks. Or taken and imprisoned. Still imprisoned. Dreams and lives shattered that day, died that day.
I returned to Tiananmen several times while I lived in China. Each time, it disturbed me. In one of my boxes filled with memories from that time, I have my kite. Bought on the edges of the Square one day, flown in memory of those who could not do what I did. My own quiet act of defiance, an act of freedom by one born in a free land.
Was I brave? Certainly not. There was no one to stop me. Most never even knew what was in my heart. I stood there, a foreigner, honestly amazed I was allowed to be there at all. Wondering what life there would have been like if the students had succeeded. Wondering (still today) if the truth of it all will ever be allowed to be made public. Wondering if those around me had been there, or if they even knew what had happened. Had they lost someone they loved? Will there be a time when China will be truly free?
The picture above shows a truly brave man. And I wonder, how many of us would stand in his place. And I wonder, where is he today? And I hope that I would be brave enough, strong enough, to stand in defiance to those who would crush me for standing in their path of destruction. I wonder.