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The Scars of War
The last time I saw my mother was 15 years ago, through a poorly crafted pane of glass.
The war had reached a point where it was dangerous to live in London. German planes dropped bombs on the city during their deadly blitzkriegs; the sound of the alarms rang incessantly in my ears, regardless of whether or not the city was under attack. There were so many blackouts, and so much destruction, my two greatest phobias are now the dark and excessively loud noises—I was only 8 years old at the time, so I could hardly escape being scarred.
The night before I left, another blitzkrieg occurred. It felt like we were stuck in the shelter for hours, too afraid to even peer out the bulkhead door. At one point, all was quiet for about ten minutes, except for the ringing in my ears. Papa decided to go upstairs and survey the damage, and, even though Mama wanted to go with him, he insisted that she and I stayed underground, just in case. I was too afraid to go up yet anyway, but I knew Papa would be safe. He had to be safe…
Only a few minutes later, I was sure the sky had fallen down on top of us; the explosion was so loud I couldn’t hear my own voice, in spite of the feeling in my throat and chest that told me I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Mama held me tight, so I felt safe, but I wondered what was going on. And where was Papa?
We didn’t leave the cellar ‘till we knew it was light out. Mama found Papa—he was buried underneath still-smoldering pieces of our roof. The house had been completely destroyed, but, at that moment, I didn’t care. All that mattered was that I had to hold back my tears and dry Mama’s.
She decided it was time to leave London.
We packed up whatever we could find, which wasn’t very much, and walked to the train station, holding hands the whole way. There were a lot of sad, dirty faces on the streets, and I wondered if Mama and I looked like that, too.
At the station, the conductor announced that there wasn’t enough room for so many people, so they offered to take all the children onto the last empty train, and they would send the parents when the next available train arrived. Mama stared at me for a minute with a funny look in her eyes that kind of scared me at first. Then she said, “Alright, Leslie, I want you to go on that train. Don’t argue with me; I’ll see you again before the day’s over, I promise.”
I bit my lip nervously, but nodded. Mama wouldn’t make a promise if she couldn’t keep it.
She took me to the conductor and told him she wanted me to be one of the children to go on ahead. He nodded, and took my hand from her and found me a seat. I dropped my bag and pressed my face against the window, and I found Mama in the massive crowd. She was smiling at me, but it stopped at her lips; I could see that her eyes were sad. Then the train started to pull away, and I lost sight of her.
After we’d left the station and I’d taken my seat, a loud blast and the blaring siren filled my ears. I immediately jumped up to look out the window again, and that moment was the worst I’ve ever felt in my life.
A warplane had just flown overhead. Seconds later, we rounded a bend, and I could see the station again. It was engulfed in flames.