by Cyrina Osueke, Dallas, TX
The year was 1967 in Nigeria, a country in West Africa. I recall the adults sitting in groups with tension in their faces, arms folded across their chests like mourners at a graveyard. They talked about the start of war; one that would eventually last for twenty six months. My father explained to us children the reasons for the conflict, but at that time, I was much too young to understand. Schools were abruptly closed, people vacated the cities, and my family moved back to my village of Ekwerazu.
Back in the village, life was fun; we enjoyed playing in the woods, catching insects and chasing chickens. One area prohibited to us was the reservoir, the village’s only water source then believed to have become an “enemy target”. Towering in the sky behind our family compound, the seventy-five foot tank stood like an Iroko tree at sunset. With a serene environment, a small valley to the east, and water droplets from a crack located on its back, the reservoir was an attractive hangout for many children.
On a hot, sunny day in February of 1967, my mother asked me, my sister M.T., and my senior brother, Remy, to journey to the reservoir to fetch some water. We spread the news to our cousins of our intended mission, and they all decided to follow along. We set out, all fourteen of us, including my cousin Eugene and Adol, through a winding pathway, forming a single file line like soldier-ants moving food in the crack of dawn. Halfway down the path, cousin Eugene suggested we feast on the honey-sweet flowers of the oil bean tree, which then started a whole new adventure further into the woods. When we finally arrived at our destination, it was lonely and tranquil, except for Mr. Anyanwu, the engine operator and his dog Bingo, who’s barking occasionally livened up the area. Suddenly we heard a familiar sound ringing through the forest. In that instant, a picture of a dark, monster-like figure appeared in the horizon to the west, zooming toward us.
“Hey, look!” screamed my cousin Adol.
“What,” barked Remy.
“A kite! A giant kite!”Adol exclaimed in excitement.
“Air-raid fighter!” Eugene warned, terror ripping through his voice.
“Take cover!” Adol yelled.
Pandemonium ensued as we all scattered in different directions. Sister M.T. clutched my arm while she dragged her bucket in the other hand.
“Maria, drop that bucket!” A voice commanded loudly. ‘Clang’ went the silver-colored bucket on the concrete as she pulled me behind a palm tree a few feet away. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion that quaked the earth beneath us, sweeping our frightened bodies off the ground where we laid. Another boom followed. I tried to scream, but Sister’s trembling hands covered my mouth. I was terrified.
Mission accomplished: the two monsters roared into the air after dropping two bombs and bursting several pipelines. A few minutes later, we emerged from our different hide-outs, crying frantically to each for our brothers, sisters, and cousins. To our astonishment, everyone survived. We went to collect Sister’s bucket before we started our journey back home. There it was, a total wreck with thirty, gaping bullet holes glaring at us. M.T. turned and hugged me, tears trickling down her face. She indeed sacrificed the bucket to save her life and mine. She continued sobbing as we ran home wildly through the winding path, anxiously wondering what we would tell our parents.