Journalist Sonja Pace discusses her work in Rwanda

Two radio career journalists will attend Allegheny on Monday, April 22 to share their experiences covering conflict in Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Middle East. Reporters from “The Campus” had the opportunity to interview Larry James and Sonja Pace prior to their visit, which will feature a presentation, “Dispatches: Memoirs of War Zones,” to take place from 8-10 p.m. in Quigley Auditorium.

By Allyson Weiner, Contributing Writer

Sonja Pace recalls a deafening silence haunting the streets as millions of Hutu people approached the border of Zaire (currently the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Mass killings plague the land in Rwanda. Hundreds of thousands of people have been brutally and systematically slaughtered over a disturbingly short period of time.

Pace remembers the hotel.

“It was right on the main road from the border crossing into the town of Goma, and I was just sitting there and I would see these people and they just kept coming and it was completely silent,” she said.

The silence is what struck Pace the most.

“[The people] weren’t speaking, they weren’t crying, they were just walking,” Pace said. “And it was the most eerie feeling I’ve ever had in my life…it was almost like something from Dante’s Inferno.”

Pace and a group of her colleagues learned there had been shelling at the border, located no more than a half mile away. Upon their arrival, they discovered a number of people who had been killed or severely injured, a sight that Pace says forced even the toughest men to momentarily be seated as waves of nausea overcame them.

Pace described how she coped with the difficult situation.

“I think what kept me going was I kept thinking, [you] can’t think about this now, because if you think about it, there is no way that you can tell this story,” Pace said.“You sort of shut it out, you know? It doesn’t mean that you forget about it, and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect you later.”

Over the course of her thirty plus years as a foreign correspondent for Voice of America, Pace has covered conflict in Cairo, Somalia, Israel, Zaire, and Mali.

While her work in Rwanda proved to be most challenging, it also served as a source of inspiration for Pace to continue her journalistic work.

“I didn’t have second thoughts about my career,” Pace said. “At that point I felt that it was more important than ever to do this kind of work… if we, the media, don’t come in and tell these stories, who will?”