On June 26, 1996...

November 19, 2007
By Adebunmi Savage, New Brunswick, NJ

On June 26 1996 my life was changed forever. I arrived in America after six years of living in another country. I was born in New Jersey but shortly after my birth my mother took me to live with my Grandmother in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I lived in ignorant bliss until the age of six but now the word Africa has the habit of leaving a bittersweet taste in my mouth. It is similar to unprocessed sugar cane in its original form, initially appealing to the taste buds but leaving a bitter memory on the tongue.

In 1996 the war in Sierra Leone which broke out in 1991 was beginning to become a horrific catastrophe. Children were recruited to become soldiers, families were murdered, death came easily, and living was a privilege that was rarely granted. Torture became the favorite past time of the RUF rebel movement which was against the citizens who supported the Sierra Leonean President RUF Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. I was in the grips of genocide and there was nothing I could do about it. Operation No Living Thing was put into full effect . From then on I was a child no more.

In late May 1996 Sierra Leone began evacuating its British and American citizens . Fortunately for me I had been born in New Jersey so I was able to leave before it was too late but I left behind most of my family members . My older brother and sister and younger brother from my father’s previous and current marriages are not American citizens. My sister later became ill with malaria and died after she received an injection from a needle that was infected with Hepatitis B. My brother is in college in Sierra Leone but doubts that he will be successful because there are no job opportunities in the country. My father’s house and pharmacy were burned down shortly after I fled the country, the only place I knew.

The day I left Sierra Leone was the same day that I was told of my departure. Imagine leaving the only place you were familiar with, leaving everything you treasured behind without being given any time to prepare for it. I felt like a premature baby being forced from my mother’s womb into a foreign atmosphere. I was frightened., I was lonesome, and I was in awe. I came from a very large family and a very large house to a one bedroom apartment with a mother that I did not know a thing about. Now that I look back on it I realized that the price of my freedom is poverty and hardship. I started school in America in second grade where I attended Woodrow Wilson Elementary School where I did not fit in at all. I was made fun because of my skin color, accent, and awkward clothing. I had to endure ESL class with a teacher who spoke to me in a syntax that insinuated that I was ignorant and deaf. I was poor and misunderstood but most of all I was free. The experience of living in America has redeemed my past, shaped my present, and inspired my future. I have the privilege of going to school without worrying about being killed on the way there, I have electricity in the house, I have books to read and I have food to eat. I do not go to bed hungry and I do not wake up in fear. I have the choice of attending college and making something of myself. I can choose to be something or I can be nothing; most of all I have a choice. I have opportunities that my late sister did not have and my two brothers are fighting for. I have a dream born from a nightmare. I have life found while escaping death. I have the American Dream.

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