Monday, June 15, 2009
On This Day: June 16th, 1976
I wrote last year about the Soweto riots of 1976 in South Africa, which began an eighteen-year period of rolling civil unrest that blanketed the entire nation, at times verging on the brink of all-out civil war, until the racist policy of apartheid was finally laid to rest in 1994.
I won't repeat what I said last year. Suffice it to say that it's a day of sadness and mourning for many in South Africa. The image of young Hector Pieterson, the 12-year-old boy shot by police on that day, being carried by a friend, is still all too fresh in many of our minds. It's become emblematic of a titanic struggle that almost destroyed a nation, the after-effects of which are still experienced in daily life in that country.
Say a prayer, if you will, for those who died that day, and for the estimated 100,000 who lost their lives in the subsequent eighteen years of violence. Even that figure is no more than a 'guesstimate' - so many simply 'disappeared', their fate unknown, that the true death toll is impossible to calculate.
Ever since then, June 16th has been a sad day for me, filled with memories I'd rather not have.