Many students wrote heartfelt essays about modern-day genocide. Two contest winners actually lived it.
For Belise Rutagengwa, Night is a chilling reflection of her own life as a child in Rwanda. In 1994, when she was only 5 years old, 800,000 people were murdered during 100 days of bloody terror. "I saw people getting slaughtered. I saw women who were pregnant getting macheted and their babies thrown out onto the trees," she says. "I didn't understand why people were being killed—and in front of my face, like little children being cut. It was just...I will never get those images out of me."
Belise's parents, grandparents and members of her extended family were killed. She now lives with her aunt in Indiana and attends a boarding school outside of Chicago. Belise says that Night has given her life a sense of purpose. "When I was reading Professor Wiesel's book ... I think [I realized] that God saved me because I was left to tell what happened, for those who are silent now—who have no voice. I think that as Professor Wiesel said, it would be inhuman of us to let the world leaders say that never again will this happen when we know today in Sudan people are getting slaughtered daily and we're doing nothing about it. ... I join with Elie Wiesel in praying that his book will inspire us to change the world one 'night' at a time."