Fireworks

+The+dazzling+moon%2C+highlighting+the+clouds+and+outlining+the+trees%2C+was+captured+from+the+hammock+on+April+7th%2C+2020%2C+in+the+countryside+of+El+Retiro%2C+Antioquia.

The dazzling moon, highlighting the clouds and outlining the trees, was captured from the hammock on April 7th, 2020, in the countryside of El Retiro, Antioquia.

Juan Manuel Rodríguez, Marketing Manager

Her voice trembled as she struggled to recount the story. Her eyes watered as my dad hugged her in an unsuccessful effort to comfort her. He felt exactly the same way. Hence, comforting her was not an option. I did not understand why she was so upset. It had been more than 15 years since the event, and a harmless helicopter should not have triggered such a strong reaction. But then it hit me. Their pain and fear went beyond what I have ever felt. After all, the social distancing they faced during violent times in Colombia might have been significantly worse. 

It was April 7th, 2020, and my parents and I were outside in a hammock watching the beautiful moon. We were playing “High Hopes” by Kodaline while sharing laughter and conversation. The chuffing sound of the helicopter’s blades made my mom tense up. When I asked her what was up, she began narrating the tale of the day my parents saw fireworks in the middle of the countryside. I was a newborn, and my parents decided to spend our first father’s day at our house in el Retiro. That day, as my father recalls, “We had our bedroom window open because it was a lovely night, when in the distance, at 4:30 am, I saw two black helicopters pass by.” A few hours later, when both were awake, they began to see fireworks in the distance. Confused, they joked around and went back to sleep. Little did they know they had just witnessed a massacre.  

My dad woke up uneasy and was curious about the incident. He suspected it was more than simple fireworks, describing it as  “one of those action movies with helicopters involved.”. After asking around, my parents found an answer with Claudia Castañeda, a native person from El Retiro. She told them about what those fireworks were. The army had flown over San José, a nearby town, and killed hundreds of people in an attempt to reduce the activity of la Guerrilla. The fireworks were gunshots. “We were overwhelmed with fear. Juan Manuel was a baby, and we did not want to put him in danger. We decided to not go back to El Retiro,” Angela Zuluaga, my mother, said. After that, our house in El Retiro was locked for about three years in which we did not go out of the city at all. During the peak of the violence in Medellín, people faced similar situations than those the world is currently facing. Limitations for daily activities were no strangers to their lives. 

In a video tribute to a bomb placed Parque Lleras in 2001, Francisco Vélez and German Molina, store owners and friends, share with the audience the profound fear caused by the attack. People ran, cried, and would evade this park at all costs. Just like that, the lives of people living in Medellin changed forever with this single event. Most people in this city had to directly experience violent attacks from the armed groups in the war. As shared by Vélez and Molina, this “casual day” was turned into a traumatic memory for many. One that could not be erased. People became more careful and aware and fear was planted on the hearts of millions. A fear that would never go away. Tomás Ortiz, TCS Senior, illustrates this feeling by explaining how his upbringing was definitely altered by his parents’ mindset regarding Colombia’s violence.  He believes, just like I do, that our generation was raised under more strict rules. Our parents are definitely overprotective. In fact, neither of us are allowed to drive after a certain time at night. “Even though there has historically been more crime and violence in the city, my family and I perceive the city to be even safer than the suburbs, where, of course, things would look safe from an outsider perspective,” Ortiz said. My parents were not the only ones affected, and society as we know it was heavily shaped by the events that occurred during more violent times. 

 After they finished the story, the connection to Coronavirus and social distancing was evident. How ironic was it that they could not come to our country house during the civil war but we must stay here now? My parents mentioned how thankful they were that during this crisis they had each other and an incredibly comfortable place to be. We hugged as “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” by Kenny Rogers played softly in the speaker. Through simple speculation, we were hit by the realization that just like the Civil War, social distancing would also impact the lives, development, and upbringing of people for years in the future. It is hard to predict how, but we can be sure that COVID-19 will also leave an everlasting mark in Colombia and in the world. 

After speaking to many people about it, I have no doubt that the Civil War was a harder challenge for society. My Dad supports this claim by stating, “The current lockdown is done for health protection; for taking care of each other. But there is no fear of dying unfairly in a violent activity outside.” Also, Ortiz claims, “Of course it is boring and creates anxiety, but at least we have the certainty that the virus is not going to come after us. With kidnappers and with criminals, it’s not the same way,” Knowing that cases of COVID-19 in Colombia have been controlled through social distancing is a relief. Knowing society got over the extreme violence is a relief. Despite the adversities, the fireworks in the story might be indicating that regardless of the violence and pain they imply, a better, brighter, and stronger society will come out of the crisis.