Students remind island of bloody time from past
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada -- The yearlong hunt is over for Andre Bierzinski,
Valentino Sawney Jr. and the 42 other Young Leaders of 2000.
When the two 16-year-olds and their classmates head back to school
final year at the Presentation Brothers College prep school here, pathology,
forensics and the case Bierzinski calls ``Grenada's X-Files'' will be replaced by
basic chemistry, biology and advanced math.
And the mystery that has scarred the Grenadian soul for nearly
two decades will
fall on the slight frame of the boys' headmaster, Brother Robert Fanovich, the
38-year-old Roman Catholic priest who inspired and guided the boys in their
search for truth and peace.
It was a most unusual class project, to be sure: searching the
present and past
to find the body of Grenada's former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, whose Oct.
19, 1983, execution along with 18 members of his revolutionary government
helped bring about the U.S. military invasion of this Caribbean island six days
It was also controversial: His executioners burned and hid Bishop's
with eight others -- and, many people here believe, the Americans unearthed and
reburied the remains -- to keep the charismatic leader from becoming as powerful
in death as he was until the coup in which he was killed.
The coup-makers remain in prison here, serving life sentences
for ordering the
killings. And for a nation long in denial, the boys' project became something of an
epiphanic wake-up call.
``Our project's aim was to bring peace to the suffering families
as a first step in
the healing of our nation,'' the boys said in their final report.
``We believe that if the families knew what happened to their
loved ones, then
there could be a closure to this terrible chapter in their lives and, indeed, our
But when the classmates got a bit too close to the truth early
this year -- after
their investigation led to three U.S. Army body bags in an unmarked grave in St.
George's Cemetery -- the discovery reopened wounds.
``Our project took us where we would have preferred not to go,''
said their final
report, which earned them second place in a competition of class projects among
Caribbean prep schools. ``We came face to face with the beast in human nature.
Murder, deceit, fear, lies and a pain that comes from not knowing the facts. But
we also saw some of the best in human nature.''
Led by Bierzinski and Sawney, teenagers spent most of the year
prisoners, politicians, former soldiers, undertakers, gravediggers and relatives of
They also scoured documents, unearthing a Dec. 12, 1983, report
by the U.S.
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, which confirmed that the United States sent
a team to Grenada to try to identify Bishop's remains. (U.S. officials deny that the
invasion force tried to hide them.)
The class interviewed witnesses to the killings. And they tracked
down the body
bags, which contained skeletons. A team of U.S. and British forensic experts
called in to investigate in April have concluded that Bishop's bones were not
among the skeletons, Brother Robert said.
Reflecting over a couple of sodas at a local minimall as they
ended their summer
vacation, Bierzinski and Sawney said they think they would have won the
competition had the subject matter been less controversial.
``A lot of people thought it was not an appropriate topic for
boys our age,''
Bierzinski said. ``But I still think they were wrong. It was fun. It was shocking.
And it was a great education.''
Sawney added: ``The idea was to bring peace to the families, to
between those who are in prison and those whose bodies are still missing. And
we didn't really succeed in that. But as a lesson in personal self-motivation, it was
Brother Robert, who has been criticized both from within the Roman
Church and outside it, said: ``I have seen these boys growing -- becoming more
analytical and more critical in their thinking. I think they have learned a lot about
human nature -- the best of it and the worst of it.''
The project chosen for Young Leaders of 2001 promises to be no
Next year's task: persuading the owner of Grenada's uninhabited
which is home to a rare tortoise, to develop it for eco-tourism rather than rent it for
$10,000 a year to a U.S. developer planning to build villas there.