Have you ever witnessed something so powerful and so moving that you are certain you will never forget it? Maybe it was the birth of a child, or a ceremonious event such as a wedding, or something somber such as losing a loved one. Images like these are ingrained in our minds. Every time we remember these moments, emotions and feelings that were present during the moment tend to rear up again. Our team had one of those moments last night...
As previously mentioned, the majority of refugees who arrive by boat on the island of Lesbos are arriving on the north shore, which is mere kilometers from the shores of Turkey. It is so close, we can see Turkey across the sea from our hotel windows. When these refugees arrive, there are normally between 25 and 50 total passengers on a boat that is suited for less than 10. They are jam packed. Some have life jackets, some have flotation devices, some have inner tubes, some are left without. When the boats arrive safely on shore, a lot of the paraphernalia that was used on the way over, such as the rafts and life jackets, are left scattered upon the beach. Large scale clean-up operations have sought to remove these items from the beaches and deliver them to large landfills.
The largest landfill, located just outside the town of Molyvos, is about a 5 minute drive from our hotel. Last evening, after dinner, we piled in to the van and headed to see what none of us expected to be as powerful as it really was. I'll let the pictures do the talking:
The three large areas where life jackets are stacked up were actually three huge craters that were dug to hopefully fill with debris and then cover. However, the number of life jackets largely exceeded the size of the three craters, creating the gigantic piles you see today. It was a very emotional moment for every one on the team and surely an unforgettable image that each of us will never forget.
"This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee's own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State."
Stephen Blan teaches US History at Fort Worth Country Day in Fort Worth, TX and is a 2015 Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow.