An Unforgettable Event in My Life
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
An Unforgettable Event in My Life
Abdul Goleima Juana
My uncle was yelling my nickname, "Gibao! Gibao! Where are you?" I came out from underneath the dining table and ran to him. He gave me a piggyback ride, and we left the house before the rebels could burn it down. We ran down the hallway and out the front door; but before we could run any further, we were stopped by a group of rebels carrying guns and machetes. "So, who should we kill first?" asked the commander, casually. Without thinking, my uncle dropped me and ran; the rebels chased him and I heard a couple of gunshots. I didn't wait for them to come back. I ran off also, not knowing where I was going.
There was a white unfinished building nearby, so I ran inside. I found a group of about fifty people crouching low in one room. I looked around at the scene of unknown faces; their images became blurry. It was like the tide rushing to meet the seashore-tears welled up in my eyes. I felt alone although I was surrounded by a multitude of people. I cried louder and louder; I cried for the sorrow I felt from abandonment, for my family who I thought I would never see again. The fear was now creeping in my stomach. Suddenly, a man asked, "Whose child is that crying?" Another man said, "Shut him up, or get him out of here before he blows our cover!" A hand protruded out of the masses and grabbed me. "He is my child," said a familiar female voice. When I looked at the woman, I recognized my pre-school teacher. She was with her husband and her three-year-old son. She was feeding her son sugar. She gave me some. But before we could exchange words, a man standing by the window yelled, "A group of rebels are heading in our direction. We have to evacuate now!" I exited the building with my teacher and her family.
As soon as we left, I heard people screaming in terror and when I looked back I saw that not everyone was able to make it out-the rebels had set the building on fire. The rebels were burning the people inside the building. The smell of the people burning alive was disgusting. I continued running with my teacher and her family.
Before this catastrophic incident, I never understood what war was because I had only experienced happy and peaceful incidents, like playing hide-and-seek with my friends. I remember one time when I was in Sierra Leone. It was a beautiful sunny morning in February 1997. Just after eating breakfast, I was playing my Gameboy in my bedroom, and my mom entered the bedroom. "Gibao, put on some decent clothes. Your father is taking us to the beach." I went to the closet and found a purple short sleeve T-shirt, a pair of grey Scooby-doo shorts, and a pair of flip-flops. Then, I took my soccer ball and I left my bedroom. I went in the kitchen for some snacks, and I saw my mom making some delicious sardine sandwiches for the trip. I grabbed some fried shrimp chips and dashed to the living room. My mom yelled, "No running in the house, Gibao!"
In the living room, my dad was sitting on the couch, drinking his tea, and reading a newspaper. I sat next to him while I was eating the shrimp chips. My older sister came to the living room from her bedroom. My dad yelled out to my mom, "Hey, honey, are you done yet making those sandwiches? We have to get going because we don't want to hit traffic!" My mom replied, "Yes, dear, I'm done."
She came out of the kitchen carrying a brown basket, a big family-size umbrella, and dragging a small ice-chest. My dad helped her carry the basket. He put the basket, umbrella, and ice-chest in the trunk of his car. My dad and mom were in the front seat while my sister and I were in the back seat. We left the house at 11:00 a.m. But we were still stuck in traffic for about two hours. We arrived at the beach at 1:00 p.m. My dad, my sister, and I started playing soccer in the hot sand, while my mom was relaxing under the umbrella. It was about 101 degrees on that day. We played for two hours. Sweaty and thirsty, we joined my mom under the family-size umbrella. We ate the sardine sandwiches and drank some Kool-Aid from the ice-chest. Later, we swam in the Atlantic Ocean and then went home. That day was one of many happy moments in my childhood.
On Wednesday, January 6, 1999, a civil war broke out in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Six days before my 5th birthday. I remember that morning like it was just yesterday. The morning after the sleepover at my grandparents' house on Wednesday, January 6, 1999, the rebels attacked my city. The memories of that early morning still stand vividly in my mind: I was sleeping in the boys' quarters along with my cousins when a deafening sound woke me up; my grandparents were already up. A second later, I heard the sound again; I later learned that it was the sound of gunshots. Then, I heard people screaming in terror. "The rebels are coming! The rebels are coming! Run for your lives!"
Everyone dispersed like mice seeking refuge. My grandparents and cousins ran off without me. Everyone thought that I had left with another family member. But I was left alone and my city was under attack. Everyone was screaming and running out of their homes with some of their belongings on their heads. This frightened me, so I put on my shoes and hid underneath our dining table. Moments later, luckily for me my uncle came to the house looking for me.
My teacher, her family, and I ran over ten miles, moving from one building or house to another seeking refuge. We started walking on a paved road, and I realized I had lost my shoes. It was about 110 degrees that day, and I was walking bare-footed on the hot paved road with my teacher and her family. My teacher was carrying some of her belongings on her head with her son on her back, and her husband was carrying a big backpack and two suitcases in his hands, while I was burning the soles of my feet on the hot pavement. I saw a lot of burned vehicles. I saw dead bodies that were decapitated. We walked and ran for about three days while eating sugar and seeking refuge, until we arrived at a highly secured neighborhood where my teacher's parents lived. For a moment, I was happy because I was safe. When we arrived at their house, they offered us water and a cooked meal-bulgur and pumpkin soup. I ate like I hadn't eaten anything in years. I stayed with my teacher and her family for two weeks. During that time, she was unable to locate my family.
I was beginning to give up hope of ever being found. But one day while playing in the backyard, I saw my dad coming from a distance. I didn't wait for him to get near. I ran to hug him, screaming, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" He opened his arms wide to embrace me. "My son! My son! My son!" We hugged each other with tears running down our cheeks. I took him inside the house to introduce him to my pre-school teacher. "Dad, this is my pre-school teacher, Hawanatu, who saved my life and is taking care of me." My dad shook her hand and said, "It is nice to meet you. Thank you for saving my son's life and taking care of him." My teacher said it was nothing. I hugged my pre-school teacher and her parents. I told them good-bye and I left the house with my dad.
We walked about three blocks down the street, and then I saw my mom, my grandparents, and other relatives. I ran to meet them and they all gathered around me. That day was the best day of my life, for I was reunited with my family.
By Gonzalez Momoh Juana
I wish to express my thanks to Auntie Hawanatu and her family for saving the life of my five-year-old child when all were running to save their own lives. When we arrived at home, everyone was very happy to see Abdul alive after ten terrible and unpredictable days.
The Sierra Leone civil war, which lasted for ten years, resulted in massive brutality. The rebels acted as if they weren't human beings. They didn't hesitate to inflict everlasting pain and punishment on civilians by forcing them to witness the killings of family members and by mercilessly chopping off the hands, arms, and legs of these civilians.
Within a ten-year period, the rebels left behind over five thousand dead, hundreds of amputees, and the devastated city of Freetown. The political injustice that prevailed in Sierra Leone made people move into the jungles and become guerilla fighters who started destroying the country from the farthest east to the west, from March 23, 1991, to January 22, 1999.