If you’re like me, you spent this past Thanksgiving Break trying to forget about school, pretending that finals aren’t around the corner, and simply enjoying time with family and friends you don’t see too often. That’s what I like to do, but this break was different. You may have seen the crosses on campus the week before Thanksgiving, or maybe you actually read a flier handed to you at the Arbor, or maybe you stopped by the rally at Storke on Wednesday. In case you missed out on all those things, let me recap for you.

Chicano Studies 177, Globalization and Transnational Social Movements, had an unconventional class this quarter. We read a book, just a book like all the others you read or half-read for your classes, but this book was different. The Massacre at El Mozote told the tale of 900 civilians in El Salvador who, in 1980, died at the hands of Salvadoran soldiers trained at the School of the Americas (SOA), located right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. For some reason, our class couldn’t move on. Professor Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval assigned the book and a paper covering the readings, like he has for other classes. But we didn’t react like other classes. We simply couldn’t believe a massacre so horrible had occurred and that the soldiers responsible were trained at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga. How could it be? How could people not know? We decided we had to inform them, so we did.

We held a Week of Awareness, in which we passed out fact fliers, put up posters, showed movies, sold traditional Salvadoran pupusas, held a rally, did whatever we could to spread the word about this institution supported by our tax dollars, where Latin American soldiers learn how to torture and kill their own people. The week’s events also led up to our climax, a trip to the annual protest to close the School of the Americas.

Eleven students from the class, myself included, along with our fearless professor, fundraised to fly to Georgia and do our best to shut the mother down. We joined 20,000 other protesters at the gate of Fort Benning and paid tribute to those who have suffered and died at the hands of SOA graduates. We watched as about 40 protesters, mostly men and women in their 70s or 80s performed acts of civil disobedience, crossing onto the Fort’s property, a federal offense with a minimum sentence of a three-month jail time. Something happened at the gate of Fort Benning that I never expected – it changed my life.

In my 21 years and all my experiences, nothing has moved me like those elderly men and women who crossed that line. I went to Georgia expecting to learn more about Central America and the SOA, thinking I would finally get some closure for the horrible things I learned of in my past three years as a Global Studies major. I didn’t expect to learn so much about myself, or about the nature of humanity that my traveling mates taught me. Fort Benning changed me. My professor and 10 classmates who stood with me, they changed me too. I’ve been distant since our return. My fellow protesters feel the same. We’ve had trouble sleeping because torture survivor’s stories haunt our minds. So this Turkey Day, I wasn’t able to forget about finals, and all thoughts academic like I usually try to do. While that might not sound so great, trust me, it is. I left my heart in Georgia, but now I need to get it back. How? Keep spreading the word. Keep doing all I can to educate, to close it down, to keep the movement going so that we don’t forget about those massacred at El Mozote and the other hundreds of thousands who lost their lives because of our training base. So I want to thank you all who came to any of our events or simply bothered to ask what the crosses were for. You helped support our trip to Georgia. And to those of you who missed out on what we did before the trip, don’t worry, there’ll be more to come.

Elizabeth Moore is a fourth-year global studies major.