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a screen grab of an article from cbc.ca

Behind the article: Chile on the 40th anniversary of the coup

The image above is of an article I wrote for the CBC News website while in Santiago, Chile for the 40th anniversary of the country’s military coup, on September 11.

What struck me while I was there was the feeling of being in the midst of a month-long period of national catharsis, both of the people and of the country’s media outlets, an opening of wounds that were never given a chance to heal and a telling of stories that had never before been heard. And they poured out.

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man sits on window sill

Franco Urbina sits at the window in the house in Santiago, Chile that soldiers raided on September 11, 1973.

The morning of September 11, 1973, my father Franco Urbina — 16 years old at the time — went to school like any other day. Unlike other schools, however, the iconic National Institute was only a block from La Moneda, the presidential palace in the heart of downtown Santiago.

At 9:30 the headmaster informed the students that it was best if they all went home because something was going to happen. Young Franco didn’t know quite what to make of it and as other older students gathered to figure out what to do, he and a small group of classmates left the school.

Only steps away from the Alameda, downtown Santiago’s main avenue, the teenagers soon realized the gravity of the situation. Bullets had begun to whiz through the air and they quickly decided to go their separate ways and try to get home.

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