Mourning for my friends

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Luis Horacio Nájera at the Newseum in Washington, DC
I never realized how deep I hide my emotions until I went to the Newseum in Washington, DC two weeks ago. Indeed, it took me 15 days to start typing about my thoughts and feelings to visit such an amazing place, where a memorial for 2,007 journalists assassinated all over the world since 2002 is located at the third floor, and where my name and my photo could have been posted if I didn't flee Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 2008. Before my travel to DC I was really excited, in part because of this will be the first opportunity to leave Canada since we came from Mexico; also I was invited to participate as an expert in a panel about governance, which allows me to speak about the threats against press freedom, and to ask for support for those journalists now are facing attacks on a daily basis or, like me, living in exile. However, my biggest expectations in an emotional sense came from thinking on the tour by the Newseum, especially from the moment when I will stand in front of the photos and the names of my former workmates Enrique Perea Quintanilla and Armando Rodriguez Carreon, two great journalists killed in Mexico and whose funeral services I cannot attend. When Enrique died, I was 310 kilometers away and recovering from a surgery on my ankle; Armando`s murder occurred almost two months after I left Ciudad Juarez. When those assassinations happened I had no time and I do not gave myself time for mourning; after both killings I had to keep me alert and aware of my own situation, so I decided to hide my emotions. “For me”, I thought prior to the trip to Washington, “Being on this memorial will be the equivalent to visit their graves and pay tribute to his courageous lives and careers as a journalists, and as a colleagues”. This mix of sorrow and excitement had grown up inside me while the time to be in Washington approached slowly. Finally, that moment came. Nevertheless, when I entered to this quiet and brighter place, and saw thousands of photos of the journalists murdered and their names posted on a big glass wall, all my feelings, all my expectations about that precise moment simply faded. I felt nothing, just the same way when I was in Mexico, taking photos or writing a report about some gruesome crime. I felt nothing. Being there took me a while, I observed people passing by the area, some read about the lives and deaths of those brave journalists who pay the highest price to contribute with society; some just gave a glimpse and keep walking. Among them, I stay confused because of my reaction, the less expected even for me, so I had to dig deepest inside my feelings to have a sense of why I was there. Finally, just a thought, a question without an answer eroded: “What if I had not fled Ciudad Juarez? On his book “Journalists under Fire: The psychological hazards of covering war”, Doctor Anthony Feinstein wrote, regarding an interview he had with Jeremy Bowen, a journalist from BBC who saw his friend and driver died in Lebanon: “The tormenting question: What if? for which no answer can ever prove satisfactory, is a potential nidus of self-reproach, challenging the kind of decision that has been made countless times before without adverse consequences, until one day it all goes horribly wrong and one is left in a miasma of doubt and remorse”. Probably this is my case. I hide my feelings and emotions because at the very end, if I think about what could have been my destiny if I decided to stay in Mexico, I still feel some remorse and self-reproach about other journalists who decided to stay there doing the job, while I am here in Canada, incapable to remember, to feel and to mourn my friends. - Luis Horacio Nájera

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