When it happened, Maria and I were at her parents’ house. There was a festive, hopeful, yet tense atmosphere in the air. Several friends and members of her family were there. We were all clustered around a radio on a dusty coffee table in the basement. Some nervous laugher cut the silence as my father in law cursed in his grumbly voice while he moved around the antenna trying to get a signal. There was a deep silence before that seemed to last for an eternity. I knew that silence was loaded with everyone’s collective hopes, those of all of us sitting together in the basement as well as everyone around Chile glued to their radios. Maria squeezed my hand. I will remember the moment that followed for the rest of my life. They said the numbers, and then as clear as the rising sun, a booming roar resounded as we all stood up in exclamation, in emancipation from our deepest fears. We, the Chilean people, had achieved the unachievable: we stood up and said no to Pinochet.
There have been continuous hollers of joy and excitement all day, yet my feelings are mixed. I am joyed that I lived to see this horrendous period in our history come to a close, and I am hopeful for what the future will bring as we seek to rebuild our nation. Most of all I am thrilled that my daughter Emily will no longer have to live under Pinochet. And yet, all of this is bittersweet for me. Chile collectively has taken a momentous step towards justice, yet we still have a long journey ahead of us. Now that we have taken this step, now that the history is a bit more complete, for the first time I can look back at the past decade with a new perspective. I have not allowed myself to feel angry, but now for the first time I am allowing myself to be. Now that all of a sudden it’s just over, in retrospect it all seems so pointless what they did. They traumatized our present, they destroyed our humanity and our identity, they robbed so many people of their lives and futures, and for what!?