Writing101; DAY 4: A Story in a Single Image
April 1980 is hardly a time that I will forget. I was 5 years old and the tensions around town were so thick even little me could feel it. My parents said we had to be careful and that’s why were were putting their mattress on the floor under the window to sleep that night. I didn’t understand why, but it was all so mysterious so I went willingly along like it was some kind of game.
Sometime in the middle of the night the shooting began. I was 5 so I didn’t have any clue as to what was happening. I didn’t even know what the sound was, I later learned what it was because my father told me. There was glass everywhere in the room because they were firing into windows. We had slept in our clothes “just in case” so when we awoke to the shooting and screaming and shouting, we were ready to go.
We crawled and shimmied as low to the floor as we could get and wriggled our way outside. It felt as if our lives depended on my being quiet. The look of horror on my mothers face was enough to keep my mouth shut without question. This wasn’t mysterious anymore, I wasn’t liking this one bit. But I kept my mouth shut and I kept my tears quiet as well.
We made it outside and crept to hide behind a car, then crept behind another car, and another, making our way out of town. I didn’t know where we were going and the quiet, frantic, creeping lasted for what seemed like forever. All the while surrounding us were more screams and whimpering and shooting and bodies lying in the street. My mother forced my face away from these things at first, but my little eyes kept finding their way back to the bodies.
I don’t remember how long it took, or even how it happened, but eventually we got to the airport. My father kissed us each goodbye because they would only let women and children board the plane. In shock, we left him behind.
Others who saw my mother and I about to board the plane, begged her to take their children as well. So she did. Of course she did. My mother had me, and nine children that weren’t hers, huddled together filing onto the plane with promises from those parents that “someone” would meet the plane when it landed to collect each of them.
The airplane was filled with people. Each seat was taken and the aisle was filled with women and children sitting on the floor crammed together. I don’t remember anything of the trip.
When we landed, my mother left the plane with 10 of us in tow, holding hands and shuffling along. When we entered the crowded New York airport, there were people everywhere. Every single one of those children was claimed and we were left, just the two of us, not quite able to move just yet.
I remember sitting on my mothers lap when she gasped loudly all of a sudden. I looked up and my big brother was running towards us. He had heard on the news what happened and met every single plane. We were on the last one. He ran into us arms outstretched and gathered us both into a hug. This was when my mother collapsed into tears. She had held it together and had the strength for everything that had happened since we were awakened in the middle of the night by the bullets to our bedroom window, in another country, a lifetime away from where we were right that minute.
April 1980 is hardly a time that I will forget. I was 5 years old and we escaped the Coup d’etat in Liberia.