Something big always happens on my birthday. Usually something bad. This morning when I went to the bus stop, a guy came up to me. He said he was Pan African Congress. He said that I should not go to work, today was a stayaway. He said we had to fight the pass laws. He said that we had to fight for our liberation, and for the freedom of our leaders in jail. We had to stop the aggression against the sons and daughters of Africa, that had begun with the theft of our country three hundred years ago. He said that we should not be called kaffirs and be spat upon as we stood on the soil of our own land. The ANC was too soft, he shouted, we must heed the words of Robert Sobukwe. All men were to leave their passes at home and go to prison.
I had no wish to fight. I never have, so I walked back to the centre of town, where I found Terry. He was excited.
He said, “It’s time man, it’s time!”
People were chanting “Izwe Lethu – Our Land”. We ended up at the back of a large crowd, and followed them towards the police station.
Jets flew overhead. Everyone cheered and waved their hats. It was exhilerating, until a terrible thing happened. The fence around the police station was pushed over. It was not intentional, but people at the back of the crowd were pushing so that they could see what was happening.
The police begun to shoot. I turned and ran. Terry ran too. I ran as fast as I could. I looked back over my shoulder, and I saw people falling. They were being shot in their backs as they ran away. I saw the sparks from the muzzle of the sten gun on the saracen as it swung around, firing everywhere.
I ran into a house, threw myself to the floor, and covered my head with my hands. I have never been so afraid. When I realised that the shooting had stopped, I got up. I was shaking so much that I could not walk properly. I went outside.
Bodies lay all around. Men, women, children. People were crying. Most of the bodies were quite still, blood was everywhere. I went home. Terry was standing at my gate.
We sat on the couch for hours, listening to the wailing outside. We heard sirens come and go, and then there was silence.
I heard that sixty nine people were killed, many of them children, most of them shot in their backs as they ran.
Apparently some were armed. They had small stones in their hands.
I turned nineteen today.
© Jo Robinson 2012