After two longs days of driving, we arrived back in Omaha from Nogales on Saturday. The closer we got to Omaha, the more nervous I was about being back in my reality. I don’t usually do well with transitions, especially fast ones. I spent all Sunday running errands and catching up on life things, and made plans to watch a movie with my sister and some friends for Monday night. Inside Out was showing at Midtown Crossing, and it’s one of the best movies of all time in my books.
I sat on a zebra print blanket completely at peace — good friends, good weather, good people watching. A perfect summer night. As the movie started getting good, I thought about what a great tool it would be to use the emotion characters as a starting point in processing some of what we’ve just seen at the border.
Sadness: I experienced sadness most in moments of listening, and silence. Stories of families torn apart by immigration policy, limbs lost in the journey north, statistics of unidentified dead bodies — hearing these inconceivable stories broke my heart and left me speechless every single day. Our reflections were life-giving, but also left me feeling incredibly sad. Most of the stories shared revolved around an overwhelming sadness, and sometimes even feelings of hopelessness. It was comforting, though, to know that I was not the only one feeling disheartened at times. John once told us that it is often heartbreaking, witnessing suffering truly opens our hearts.
Joy: I felt joy just as often as I felt sadness, and the confidence that each day would also bring joy is really what kept me waking up every morning. That same promise of joy is what gave the people at the border strength and hope for a future of justice and love — seeing the hope in their faces gave me great amounts of joy. I felt joy in the backpack journalism team, working together to tackle technical difficulties, road trips, and dinner plans.
Fear: I was most afraid when I would hear stories about the power of the cartel. It is terrifying to me that an unregulated organization is so strong and overpowering in such a poor and vulnerable community. They capitalize on migrants at their weakest points in life, offering them a brighter future in exchange for a commitment to their mission. How could someone with nothing say no to someone promising them the world? Terrifying.
Disgust: I was disgusted when we sat through an Operation Streamline process. We watched first time illegal entry offenders get processed and sentenced to as many as three months in prison after spending 20 seconds in front of a judge, all while shackled at their hands and feet.
Anger: I was most angry when I thought about how systematically unjust this system is. It’s become increasingly systemized as years go on, and American policy has such little respect for our fellow humans, our neighbors. I’m angry at the American people for letting this happen, and refusing to listen to the cries for help of the people in the border lands.
All of these emotions roll into this backpack journalism experience so far, and all I can think about now is how excited I am to have a tangible product to show off. I’m excited for us to bear witness and share these testimonies with anyone that’s willing to open their ears and hearts to our message.