Unearthing a Smile

This experience has been so far the most wonderful, terrifying, and exciting thing I have ever done. To be able to change someone’s fate by retrieving them from a pit of horror and return them to their family and loved ones for a future with a proper burial full of respect and love is the most honourable thing I have ever had the opportunity to partake in. I mean yes, you can say it is spooky or even that we are weird for traveling thousands of kilometres and crossing an ocean to spend time with dead people… But the people who say those things have only a partial view of what we do. We are reuniting families, giving explanations for what has happened to somebody’s somebody, and interpreting the past.   It is a rush that motivates you from your inner core and moves you to keep going, keep learning, keep pursuing the truth. The people who do this as part of their daily lives are anything but weird and are not scared off by the spooky; they are heroic, and we are lucky to have been given the chance to work beside them.  

The first skull we recovered was at first a little unnerving. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sleep without seeing it in my dreams, but then I noticed his teeth were perfectly straight, and I thought to myself, he must have had a nice smile. His shirt has cuffs like mine, and it was the same colour as the one my boyfriend was wearing before I left for this amazing journey. Then I heard Franco say he looks young, like a teenager, and I thought that if that had been my fate I would hope someone would come find me and give me the respect I deserve by putting me in a proper resting place one where my family could come visit and talk about my smile, and laugh about how clutzy I am. So I will be resting well tonight and the following nights to come, knowing that I am part of helping return the boy with the beautifully straight teeth to a place of respect and dignity, and hopefully one day his family will be able to find him again and learn where his resting place is so they can get together and speak of his smile and quirks.

-Melissa Simmill

The trip so far has been an amazing experience.

-Donald Ireland