We Must Keep Going
On 10 September 1960, Abebe Bikila found that the new running shoes he had purchased in Rome were uncomfortable. Undeterred, he decided to run the marathon barefoot. He took the 1960 Rome Olympics gold medal.
On 23 November 1915 the retreat from the World War I Serbian front began. Every male over the age of 12 was ordered to withdraw across the Albanian mountains rather than be captured, and Serb artillery was buried or destroyed.
The retreat was costly; 400,000 Serbs set out across the mountains, but only 180,000 managed to make it to the coast and transfer to the island of Corfu. Weakened by the journey and the defeat, those on the island continued to die even after rescue.
In 1918, with the Vardar Offensive, the remains of those who had trekked across the mountains had their reckoning. Within two weeks the occupying Bulgarian Army was defeated.
On 26 July 1963 a 6.1 earthquake struck Skopje, Macedonia in Yugoslavia. The tremor killed over 1,000 people, injured 4,000 more, and left 20,000 homeless. Eighty percent of the city was destroyed.
The aftermath proved to be a true example of the world coming together, with aid coming from all quarters. Both the United States and the Soviet Union donated money and supplies. The United Nations was heavily involved in post-disaster relief. Medical care was provided by the US Army, Sweden, and Romania.
The global effort earned Skopje the nickname, “The City of International Solidarity.”
On 16 June 1976, students protesting the Afrikaans teaching requirement in schools began marching in the streets. They were met by police dog attacks and bullets.
The first casualties were Hastings Ndlovu (age 15) and Hector Pieterson (age 13). The rioting continued for several days, and up to 700 people were killed. Exact casualty counts cannot be given, as the apartheid government tried to locate protestors for arrest by combing hospital records for any gunshot wounds. Hospital staff protected protestors by listing their ailments as anything other than bullets.
The entire world watched the uprising unfold, and it lead to increasingly strong sanctions on the South African government. It took another fifteen years, but in June 1991 apartheid legislation was repealed. In May 1994 Nelson Mandela – who had been imprisoned for anti-apartheid activities during the Soweto Uprising – was elected President of South Africa.
The cycles of history are not kind, there are times when the world seems to be ending. Times when the destination can’t be spotted and the path seems insurmountable. Times when giving up seems like the best option, when the exhaustion becomes too much. But there will be a better future, and it is during the hardest of times when we have to remind ourselves that we must keep going. In looking at our past, at the overwhelming hardships that came before ours, we can trace the path to the better future that was so hard to imagine by those struggling through the dark.
We must keep going.