Second Place, Young Adult Essay Category; 2010 Bethesda Magazine/Bethesda Urban Partnership Short Story and Essay Contest
"We should use writing to release the pain from our past, so we can survive."
From my philosophy, it is obvious that writing has always been my sense of happiness. It’s therapy for me; my own place to release the anger that’s within and express the words that are heavy on my tongue. It’s my shield to protect me from harming myself.
It was Jan. 6, 1997, I was 5 and I was faced with the presence of death. Every direction was a cry for help as if I were to be a savior, all I wanted to do was reach out and stop the pain and clear the tears.
I became a witness to a civil war that broke out the break of dawn, at 5 a.m. It started with gunshots sounding loudly that silent morning and with me waking up jumping out of my bed. With my mother and father leading me through the fumes that were outside the gates of our house, this made it difficult to breathe or stay focused. While my parents went to get my siblings up as well, never before had I seen my mother where her mind was not at peace, having to worry about the loss of six. With my heart racing, and my mind unclear, I searched within my heart for some sense of hope and comfort. I see bodies that have been marked with cuts, as if it were a child doodling on a sheet of paper except in this it explained the insignificant existence it was not erasable. The blood drained out rapidly as my neighbors misplaced their heads, arms, and legs. Armed men command people to lie down so they can dehumanize them.
With caution my family managed to run, but we had to cross this stream. I remember looking down at the water at the faces of innocent souls floating past. Not wanting to join them, their souls made us stronger and we were able to make it across the stream. We survived.
About 35,000 people were living in Kuankan camp in Guinea, where MSF was providing medical care for 7,000 people. Not to talk of the 60,000 displaced people that were there. I survived with the grace of the lord, but still the memories of the past tend to hunt me, the many soldiers who hold in the pain and have gone crazy, those who have committed suicide for losing their loved ones. Writing this has given me pride and made me feel better to talk about the hidden pain in me.
Alimatu Mansaray lives in Burtonsville and just completed her sophomore year at James Hubert Blake High School.