The Seventh Brigade

Ms. E's seventh period history class trickles into the classroom one by one. Each student walks around the desks, eyeing each seat until they finally claim one as their own by dropping a heavy school bag down and plunging into a blue metallic chair. The students nod to one another as they wait for class to begin. The students' faces show a battle of disparity between the anticipation for the end of the school day and the wear from six previous classes.

Ms. E calls class to order while a boy with dark curly hair pulls out his dog-eared notebook and several girls jerk open their laptops. "Today," Ms. E says, "we will learn about Vietnamization." As class goes on, some students vigorously take notes while one boy sits slouched in his chair like an old man riding his low-rider Harley down the interstate.

Midway through class the drone of lawnmowers fills the room as a unshaven man glides along the grass making orderly streaks of dark and light green. Students close the windows but somehow the noise persists in seeping through the crumbled walls of Samuel Phillips Hall. And so, with no other choice, Ms. E simply raises her voice while continuing to illustrate the atrocities of the My Lai massacre.

"This next photo," she says, "may be too much for some of you."  Not wanting to seem scared, the students look intently at the screen, as if to say, "yeah, I can handle this." Black and white light paints the wide dangling projector canvas to portray a young woman running away from her burning village.

As class nears an end, the rumbling mower comes to a stop and the room is left in an uncomfortable silence. Students begin packing their things, hoping the melody of zips and snapping of closed books will signal the inevitable end of the school day. Ms. E takes note of the time and, after going through one final slide, dismisses the class.