Quotes / Clown-Car Grave

Burying tens of thousands of people is a job for people with a stout heart and cast-iron stomach. The woman operating the bulldozer, who gives us only her first name, Edith, has both. "It has to be done," she says, arching her eyebrows and closing her eyes at the same time. The men on the Dumpster wave us away when we approach, but I see that one of them has vomit stains running down his shirt and trousers.

After the crew members have completed their grisly duty and driven back to the city, I notice that a short distance from the graves, other trucks have dumped mounds of rubble. Some men from the village have gathered there to scavenge mainly for twisted rebar, to sell as scrap. One of them tells us (we've been joined by a couple of photojournalists) to go around the hill. There were bodies left in the open, he says.

He is right. Out of sight from the main road, some dump trucks seem to have simply unloaded their cargo of corpses and rubble into the open. Some halfhearted attempts at burial have been left incomplete. The result is a scene from a bad horror film: mounds of red earth, with body parts sticking out at grotesque angles. Some bodies are totally exposed, putrefying into a shade of yellow I've never seen. Millions of flies fill the air with a collective hum of a small generator.

Out of instinct, I get out my camera and take pictures. I usually do this when I'm on assignment, to show friends and family where I've been and to jog my memory in years to come. But after a few shots, I wonder, Why bother? It's not like I'm ever going to show these pictures to anybody. And I don't need them for myself, because they will remain forever in my nightmares. Titanyen's curse is now mine too.
TIME Article on the Mass Graves of Titanyen