“Mom, are we going to die?” My eyes bulged with horror when I had asked that of my mother.
That day we were delivered our freedom. It was 2002. I was 10 years old and the government of my home country had declared war. It had been many weeks of sleepless nights in the tiny basement room of our home and already two stray bullets had narrowly missed my head on two separate occasions. Now, we—me, my mom, my dad, and my sister—were going to flee the country. And we did so by means of a bus to the border. We had packed everything we could, our entire lives squeezed into a tiny suitcase. We left our home and property behind. Our family and friends were gone forever. But on our first stop, we were stopped by a group of officers. I remember they carried big guns and requested that all the girls on the bus pass up their passports. Then they went outside. My father and another man joined them. They argued, I remember.
I also remember how hard my sister squeezed my hand. She squeezed so hard it hurt. And then I saw it. The fear in her eyes as she gazed into mine. She was genuinely afraid. So I did the only thing I could. I squeezed back. And I smiled. Even though I had seen the officers waving their guns at my father, I forced myself to smile to my sister. I had to make sure she would be okay.
After that stop, we drove nonstop to our final destination. My father would not let us stop. Years later my father told me about the conversation he had with the officers. They had wanted to rape all the girls and then kill everyone. But they didn’t. And now my sister is alive, and a diligent law student I might add.