By Mary O’KEEFE
Early morning on April 10, Foothill Boulevard was a sea of red shirts and families. Cars slowed down to look at the shirts, which read on the front “Accept the facts. Accept the truth.” and the back, “Recognize Armenian Genocide.” Those wearing the shirts were from the Chamlian Armenian School in the 4400 block of Lowell Avenue. The reason they were walking was to not only bring awareness to the genocide but to connect generations with a heritage that includes pride as well as tragedy.
Past and present students walked alongside family and community members from their school on Lowell to the St. Mary Armenian Church on Central Avenue in Glendale, about 10 miles.
“We have been having the walk-a-thon for many years in commemoration of the genocide,” said Mariette Keshishian, spokeswoman for the school.
On April 24, 1915 about 300 Armenians from various walks of life in Constantinople, present day Istanbul, were taken from their homes by the “Young Turks” government of the Ottoman Empire. That began the long and tragic history of the Armenian genocide. From 1915 to 1916 one and a half million Armenians were killed, out of a total of two and a half million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, according to the Knights of Vartan Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan.
Many of the Armenian victims were part of death marches through the Der Zor desert.
“We walk to remember their walk,” Keshishian said.
“It is a tradition. If you go back to the pages of history our ancestors had to walk the long walk through the desert,” added Rita Kaprielain, the school’s vice principal. “This walk is nothing compared to the miles our ancestors had to walk through the sand.”
Throughout the week and up to the genocide commemoration on April 24 students and teachers have conversations about the history and why it is important to remember this past.
“First of all everyone in the [Armenian] community bears the responsibility to remember. This is a very important issue and the [memory] must be kept alive,” Keshishian said.
She added that it was important that children be connected to their history and their heritage.
“Unfortunately the genocide is part of our heritage,” she added.