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My legs were trembling. The safe room was frigid, but at least I was still alive. Another piercing noise came from outside that made the ground vibrate. I clutched my legs and held them to my chest. My deep brown hair fell over my soft blue eyes. That’s how it was going to stay. This may seem stupid but my hair was my protection. It shielded me from the world.
Father reached over and held me close. The tears ran down my cheeks, but I didn’t dare make a sound. They were out there, seeking any loud movement, any loud noise. Mama sat in the corner as if it was safer than the rest of the room. Nothing was safe anymore.
Tom was sprawled out on the floor, snoozing, as if the world wasn’t ending. I never dreamed it would happen on this heated April night.
My sister was gone, and she was never returning. They had taken her first. There wasn’t anything left of her. Mother and father had avoided talking about it ever since it happened yesterday at 5:37pm. If I could rewind the clock and start that day, April 12th, over again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I felt that this day was only a nightmare.
But I was not having a bad dream. I was living one.
I shut out my dad softly saying my name, trying to calm me down. “Willo,” he whispered, “Willo, it’s going to be all right.”
But I knew that was one of the many lies that were going to be told.
The memory of hearing the planes flying above us flashed in my mind. I was outside, enjoying the green grass and the blue sky. Minutes later the loud, blaring sirens went off. Oh, they do that every first Saturday of the month, I thought, no big deal.
Then it struck me. It was not Saturday and it was not the first week. It was Tuesday, April 12th.
Several hours later, I awoke to the sound of someone bawling. The room was black. I wanted to comfort my crying family member but couldn’t find where they were located.
“Who’s awake?” I whispered.
Expecting to find my mom the one weeping, it was a much deeper voice. It was Tom. I tried to hide my shock.
“Dad’s gone, Willo. He went outside to see if it was safe yet. Hours have passed and he hasn’t come in. Willo, I don’t know what to do. We can’t survive without him.”
My heart sank and I dropped my eyes to my feet that weren’t visible. What am I supposed to tell Mom when she wakes? I couldn't do it. I didn’t know what to do.
“Why are they attacking?” I questioned moments later.
“I think they have been planning this attack for a while. They have never liked us, Willo. They did not have a good reason to attack, but they also didn’t have one not too.”
The tears did not come fast this time, as if I cried myself dry. Slowly, I fell back on the cold, cement floor. What are we going to do without him, I thought. He was the one that comforted us all when we're close to losing our minds. He was the one that made us smile in even the roughest times. He was our rock.
“Tom, I’m scared!” I said in the smallest voice I could manage.
“Me too, Willo. Me too.”
The sad thing about that is we both knew it was an understatement.
I crawled over to where Tom was leaning against the wall. I plopped down next to him. How was Mom still sleeping, I questioned to myself. I felt around the wall for something, anything.
“What are you doing, Willo?”
I found something that felt like a switch and flicked it up. The dim lights turned on. It felt as if I haven’t seen light in a month. But then I saw something that I didn’t expect at all. Mom was gone. She must have left when we were all sleeping. She abandoned us. At that moment, it felt like my heart shattered into a million pieces. Tom was so furious that he looked like he could punch the cement wall, and it would crack. I turned off the dim lights, and melted to the floor. We stayed silent for what felt like forever, trying to soak it all in.
It all happened so fast. I was laying there, so close to sleep when I heard the voices.
“Tom, did you hear-.”
I was cut off by a hand covering my mouth. My scream was muffled by, what I thought was someone who didn’t belong down there.
“Willo, shut up. It’s me. Keep quiet,” Tom said in a hushed voice.
“Look, here is a safe room. Let’s check if there is anyone in here,” said a scratchy voice with an accent.
Just as he was about to open it up, Tom grabbed me and yanked me to the corner where Mom had been sitting before. We sat there, huddled together, trying to look as small as possible. The guy stepped down the ladder and flicked on his flashlight.
“Hey! Come quick, there are kids d-.”
The foreign was cut off by loud noise that made me shut my eyes tight. They were gunshots. When I opened my eyes, the soldier was out of sight. It was as if I closed my eyes so tight that he disappeared.
I got up quickly, shut the trapdoor, and locked it, as if my life depended on it. That’s because it did. I sprinted towards the corner and once again put my chin on my knees.
They banged against the metal door. I shut my eyes tight, hoping that it would disappear. It didn’t. I was praying that they would stop, that they would just give up. But I knew they weren’t going to stop for anything until I was just another lifeless body on the ground.
“Willo, would you stop pacing already. I know I can’t see you, but I can hear you,” Tom angrily whispered.
“Shush up, I was thinking. You made me lose my train of thought,” I spat back.
There has to be a way to get out of here, a way to live, I thought intensely.
And then it happened. I continued to pace until I tripped over something soft and cold.
“What the?” I said.
I went over to where the light switch was placed on the wall and flicked it on.
“OH MY GOODNESS!” I screamed, not even thinking about how much danger I was putting myself in.
There, lay on the ground, was the foreign soldier. He stared at me, but nothing was going on behind his lifeless eyes.
“Willo. It's okay,” said my brother, trying to calm me down. But he too couldn't hide his shock, his fear.
I melted to the floor, sobbing. I didn't care how I did it. How I got out of this safe room. How I lived. All I wanted to do was survive. And survive is what I was going to do.
“We have to get out of here,” I whispered, turning off the lights so we wouldn't be discovered.
“There is no way, unless you want to get killed.”
Then started the sirens again, my new least favorite sound. The planes roared high in the sky, ready to drop the ground destroyers. My eyes became big and I looked at the darkness, staring it in the eyes, waiting for the vibration. It didn't come until I least expected it. I jumped out of my skin. Then something happened that I haven’t felt in days. My stomach gurgled. My throat was dry. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t had a bite to eat and a drop of water in days. It felt like years. We needed to find food and water.
“We will wait until the bombing is over. Then we will leave,” I whispered into the darkness.
My stomach dropped. I could hear the doubt in his voice. And I could hear it in my thoughts too.
“Before we leave, I want to make sure it’s clear,” I said as my voice cracked.
“Willo, please don’t cry. It’s hard enough as it is without our parents. Don’t make me depressed even more,” Tom said solemnly.
So much was racing through my mind at the moment. I was afraid we weren't going to survive, that we would die. I was afraid they would torture us. But mostly, I was afraid that we would die without being remembered. It wasn't the most important thing in this world that I had to worry about, but there was people still out there alive; family and friends. Would they notice we were gone? If they did, would they care?
“Willo. WILLO. Are you paying attention to what I'm saying?!” Tom screamed.
“Sorry. Lost in thought, I guess.”
“You think!? I've been saying your name for two minutes,” said Tom, sounding annoyed.
“Are you ready?” I asked.
“More ready than I'll ever be.”
I opened the cold, metal trap door. Sunlight broke through the darkness. How could the sun be shining on such an awful day? But today wasn’t an awful day. I stepped up the ladder, one foot at a time and saw all the action. There was people walking around, happy, like we hadn’t just been through a war.
“What the heck is going on?!” I slightly yelled.
“It seems to me that this war is over. For now.”
I saw red everywhere. Not the bad red, but the Red Cross. A smile appeared on my face. A smile I haven’t felt in days. There booths set up everywhere you looked with water and food. I smiled at Tom, ear to ear. But then my smile faded. I turned to where my back was facing and saw our house. Destroyed. All that was left was rubble. My emotions were changing like crazy. One minute I was happy. The war was over. Then I start to remember what I have lost, what will never be the same. My parents are gone, so is my younger sister. But the one person that has never left my side is still here, and we are going to live life. Together.
We started walking towards one of the many booths.
“Hey kids. Glad to see you’re okay. Where are your parents?” asked a lady with bleach blonde hair who had an accent.
And then came the water works.
“Oh no, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that they didn’t make it. Let me help. My name is Shannon.”
“It’s okay, shannon. You didn’t know. She’s having a hard time accepting it,”Tom said solemnly.
Shannon gave us water and a bite to eat. It felt like heaven to be full again. Shannon asked us if we wanted to help her walk around and check on people. We really couldn’t say no.
Something shimmered on Shannon’s shirt that made me stop in my tracks. It was a pin. Haven’t I seen that pin before? I asked myself. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. That pin is a symbol for another country, the country that went to war with us…
“TOM RUN!” I screamed as loud as I could.
I yanked his arm as hard as I could and sprinted. I had no idea where I was going, but I had to get as far away from here as I could.
And then came the sirens for the third time in, I don’t know many days. They used to be a warning. Now they were just a death sentence. The loud noise of a gunshot echoed through the afternoon sky. I felt something stab my back. I felt pain. Then everything went black.