Mass Grave Uncovered in Colombia

E-mail Steve Harrigan

Sometimes you wonder if a trip is worth it.

I went down to the southern Colombian jungle to a place called Putumayo, near the Ecuadorian border.

The Colombian government had just dug up a mass grave and people were going to identify items to finally learn if their sons, husbands or brothers were murdered.

The cases were from 4 to 15 years old, so people have been waiting for this for a long time.

It is one of those things about a story I can say, but not fully understand: what's it like to wait 14 years to know whether or not your son was murdered the day he went out to get some bananas? Is he dead? Did he disappear? And how can you look out the window for him for 14 years? I didn't know. I could ask the question and put something down in the report, but I wouldn't get it.

The shot we were looking for was for someone to recognize an item of clothing from the grave and burst into tears. There were two rooms of people. I sat in the back of a school classroom looking at the slide show of items from a grave. A lot of Nike products, Just do it. Just go out and get murdered. Then, maybe 15 years later, your mother can look at a pair of Nike socks pulled from under the earth and try to figure if they are yours.

One woman recognized a pair of blue boots from her brother who was taken away by paramilitaries and killed seven years earlier. We got the shot of her recognizing the boots, crying and then getting a DNA swab on her cheek.

As bad as it was for her, it may have been worse for the people who came there and did not get any hard information.

One older woman came with her small granddaughter. I asked why she brought the girl. She said she could not leave her at home for fear someone would rape her.

The hotel in Putumayo was undergoing construction. The roof above my bathroom caved in. I was on the bed at the time. To get out of Putumayo, you can't drive because the terrorist organization FARC controls the roads and could kidnap you. So, you have to wait for a helicopter; waiting an extra 24 hours in Putumayo for a helicopter is a long time.

The old woman had gotten dressed up and came by foot. It must have taken a lot of courage to come. People were polite in Putumayo. They said "Buenos Dias" and nodded to me when they entered the building.

One older woman sat near a window. She had come in, talked to an official, and now sat waiting by the window, looking out.

I looked at this woman as she looked out the window. She had something in her hands that she was pulling. I thought maybe it was rosaries. I watched her old hands, pull, pull, pull. It was a piece of cloth. She pulled on it as she looked out the window, waiting for something.

Steve Harrigan is an FNC reporter based out of Miami. Click here to read his bio.

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.