Escaping Civil War This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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On June 26, 1996, my life 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. I lived in ignorant bliss until the age of six, but now the word Africa leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. It is similar to unprocessed sugar cane: initially appealing to the tastebuds but leaving a bitter memory on the tongue.

In 1996 the war in Sierra Leone was becoming a horrific catastrophe. Children were recruited to be soldiers, families were murdered, death came easily, and staying alive was a privilege. Torture became the favorite pastime of the Revolutionary United Front rebel movement, which was against the citizens who supported Sierra Leone’s president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. I was in the grips of genocide and there was nothing I could do. 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, since I had been born in New Jersey, I was able to go before it was too late. But I had to leave most of my family. My older brother and sister and younger brother from my father’s other marriages were 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 was in college in Sierra Leone but doubted that he would succeed because there are no job opportunities. My father’s house and pharmacy burned down shortly after I fled the country.

The day I left Sierra Leone was the same day that I was told of my departure. Imagine leaving the only place you knew, leaving everything you treasured without having any time to prepare. I felt like a premature baby being forced from the womb into a foreign atmosphere. I was frightened, I was lonesome, and I was in awe. I left a very large family and a big house and found myself in a one-bedroom apartment with a mother I knew nothing about.

Now that I look back, I realize the price of my freedom was poverty and hardship. I started school in America in second grade. I did not fit in. I was made fun of because of my skin color, accent, and clothes. I had to endure ESL classes with a teacher who spoke to me in a syntax that insinuated I was ignorant and deaf. I was poor and misunderstood, but above it 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. I have electricity in my house. I have books to read and food to eat. I do not go to bed hungry or wake up in fear. I can choose to be something or I can be nothing; most of all, I have a choice. I have opportunities my late sister did not 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.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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xb317 said...
Nov. 3, 2008 at 2:14 pm
nice article that suck getting make fun of skin color, accent, and clothes
 
Tweedle Dee said...
Aug. 30, 2008 at 4:16 pm
All these things are things that many americans take for granted. thank you for showing me how great our country really is.
 
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