Remembering the genocide that happened in Cambodia is not easy, especially for the people who lived through it.
April 17 is an infamous date for many Cambodians.
“If we don’t learn history, it can happen again we all know that from school,” said Sophorn Holl, who fled her native Cambodia as a child.
That’s when the communist party known as the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia and began a four-year reign of terror.
Home to the nation’s largest and oldest Cambodian population, Long Beach is where the community will come together and pray for the souls lost during the genocide. They’ve been coming together to remember since 2005.
Holl was just a child celebrating Cambodian New Year when the takeover happened.
“Didn’t understand what was going on. We just do what we were told to do. Our parents told us to go, we go, to sleep, to eat. We sleep along the road along the way,” said Holl.
Two of Holl’s brothers and her father died. Holl, along with her sisters and mother, fled and eventually made it to America. She came to Long Beach all the way from her home in Pennsylvania to be part of the memorial ceremony. That’s how much it means to her.
Some of the older generations have trouble talking about what they saw.
“They tie the people run behind a horse or by the bicycle, this is my eye, I still remember, while I remember like that my eye my tear won’t stop,” explained Kanno Nuon.
Nuon was in his thirties when the genocide started. He saw unspeakable horrors that make it hard for him to talk at times.
“We need to keep this memorial for the next generation to let them know that… how hard during the Pol Pot regime,” said Nuon.
The service is open to everyone and will run almost all day at the Killing Fields Memorial Garden at 1501 East Anaheim Street.
It weaves together Buddhist and Christian places of worship. This blend is proof that old, young, Cambodian, or not, anyone can learn from the past.