This is my Intensive English Student's essay.
The memory of that night is etched in my mind till now. After all, that was the most eventful day of my life, which changed the person I was.Everything started on 18th of November when my aunt sent a car to my mother, a beautiful blue Audi, the latest in 2004. It was raining heavily when we received the car. My brother and I were so excited because we planned to coax mom to give the new car to my brother, as she has already had a car and she refused to give hers to my brother. The next day we spoke to my father and he agreed to talk to mom and allowed my brother to have that shining blue car.
My brother, my younger sister and I managed to be the most obedient children in the world, we did everything that my mom said, we called her twice or thrice per day to know how she is, we kept pampering her for two and half weeks and finally, in the beginning of September she decided to give him the car but with a condition that he must be home before 12pm.
Our life was getting more and more interesting. Each second was fabulous, he taught me how to drive a car, obviously I was a great L (I call it Loser). Everyday he dropped us at school and fetched us after his class, we were somehow boasting to our relatives whenever they saw us with the car, I bragged about him in my class, some of my girlfriends fell in love with him and wanted me to introduce my brother to them. I thought to myself "How money can bring people to you?" I was disgusted to see more girls around me, bugging me for a lift. I didn't need someone to nudge me, to realize that this car has brought friends close but enemies closer.
On October 10th, my family and I visited my grandmother for two weeks. She was very happy to see us. She pampered us whenever we visited her. She is very special to us and we love her so much. Her house in the village is one of the biggest; it has a green and flourishing garden, where we spent our spare time with our neighbor's children.
One great thing in my grandmother's house is: we all spoke our dialect and for us it's an opportunity to master it. When she heard that my brother has a car, she complained to my mother and asked her to hire him a driver instead. The days ended soon, and we are back to our same routine back in city.
Once back to the city, we immediately went back to bed because of the exhausting trip. After few weeks my family and I were planning to celebrate Christmas. We finally ended up celebrating it in our house with the family. I went with my mom to buy some provisions; my dad and my brother went to buy the Christmas tree. That night we decorated the tree as well as the house.
On the Christmas day, we had many people, we could barely step through the crowd, and my mother was busy with her siblings. My brother, sister and I were glad to meet our cousins but we were more than glad to have them gone, because we couldn't wait to discover what Santa Clause had brought for us, since mother refused to let us open the gifts early that morning.
After seven days, we celebrated the New Year by wishing everyone a blissful year ahead. The following day my brother and I became very close until being his best friend. He introduced me to his girlfriend and I was glad that he did. The next day, 25th of January, a close friend of mom came to visit her, and she dined at home. When she was about to leave, my mom asked my brother to drop her at the nearby taxi stand. He accepted and asked me to accompany him. I entered my room but something pushed me to stay, I was indecisive; as I wore my shoes and took them off, he scolded me because I was taking such a long time, the same day our country was playing a football match versus another African country, the roads were deserted, everybody was watching it, finally I told him, that I am not going. Since my brother left that day around 4pm, he never came back.
The night was cold and calm; everyone was at home except him. Suddenly my dad's phone rang, he rushed to my mom's door and whispered. They rushed out, unfortunately all the car were not working, I asked my father 'What is happening?' he told me 'Your brother had an accident.' I felt a chill and everything went black around me. I was fighting back tears and I replied to him 'Hope he didn't get hurt' he said 'He is fine and we are going to find out what had happened'. Without wasting a minute, I prayed to God for him: to protect him and make sure that he was fine.
Unmoving, I waited my parents return, they got back around 10pm looking anxious, you could read the end of the world on their face, then my father came to me and held me tightly, he told me to be strong, 'Your brother has left us'. My feeling at that moment was beyond description, I heard screams coming from outside the gate, I thought to myself that it cannot be true, we spoke only a few hours ago and now he is gone, mourners were crying everywhere around the house, our neighbors came, my mom, my poor mom could barely stand, I looked at her and started crying, 'Oh God! Why did he leave us so young?' it kept on running in my mind. He was the only son, my only brother, my life was over.
That night was the worst night ever. I was sitting on the table, watching people crying, crawling and rolling on the floor, I couldn't feel anything, I was like a frame on the wall. My five senses just stopped working, and everything was black. I was present but my thoughts were not. I was breathing but my heart was not controlling the process, only God knows how I felt that night.
The next day, I went to my younger sister as my elder sister was on her way coming back from Belgium. I cuddled her so tightly and I told her that everything would be fine. Our house was crowded but for me it was empty because I couldn't hear the gentle voice of my brother. My brother was the tallest in the family, he was good looking, kind and admired by everyone. When my elder sister came, the atmosphere got worse than before. She didn't see him since he was 10 years old. We were waiting for my sister and aunt to come from Europe to fix the burial day. His friends, classmates and even people who were unknown by the family came to pay respect. His girlfriend and parents also came over to extend their sympathies but she couldn't come to the burial ceremony because she was not strong enough to attend it.
Many people read out the message that they have written to my brother on that day, one of his friends said 'The days when I was desperate, you held me up, I had no money you bought me food, I had nowhere to go you took me to your house. Thank you, you will always remain as my brother. I love you.'
We prayed for him in the church, the father gave him his last blessing, and buried him, I felt like half of me was gone, people couldn't believe what had happened .They were shocked and the same goes to my family and I.
My grandmother was holding my mom on the way back home, everyone could express their feelings but for mom and dad this sad tragedy was a nightmare, they would have like it to be a true nightmare, so that they could wake up and live the normal and complete life we once had.
What is the point of this new car? It came to facilitate our life or to take a part of us? What if I had stopped him from going? Would God have let him alive? I wish there was a reverse button to live a life over again.
Written by : Fazi Gissile from Guinea Conakary
HOPE IT HELPS YOU
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.