When it started...
It was something out of the many horror movies my mother never let me watch. I was six years old at the time, my young mind incapable of grasping what was going on. Not even in my worst nightmares was I capable of imagining the horrors I would witness, the events that would occupy the vast majority of my life. It was a day like any other, nothing particularly outstanding about it. The school year had been underway for a few weeks, and it never crossed my mind when I left my house that I would not be coming back that afternoon.
It had been raining hard for a whole week, and when the evacuation notice came, it came in the form of military personnel. Men and women in uniform and trucks overran the streets. Not one told us anything, and, looking back on it now, I suppose it was just an attempt by the teachers to keep us from panicking. It wasn’t until much later that I found out even the adults weren’t entirely informed.
Despite their efforts to keep panic at bay, it was difficult in my elementary school. There were cries left and right, mine among them. I just wanted my mom, but the teachers kept saying we couldn’t go home. We were lined up against the beige walls of the hallways, our recess cut short, about to leave the school and be loaded onto buses. Our sneakers squeaked, almost in perfect unison, on the waxed floors of the school. Once outside, I tripped. This only increased my already steady stream of tears. Someone crouched down beside me, and I expected to see my teacher.
“Here, take my hand.” When I looked up, it was an unfamiliar face. Usually, I would never have let a stranger help me. The lady looked to be around my teacher’s age, and I later learned that she was in her mid-twenties. She reminded me of my mother, with the same, vibrant red hair. Her eyes, unlike my mothers, were chocolate. The freckles across her nose made her look even younger up close. She seemed friendly, and through the panic she was the first smiling face I’d seen-a comfort I immediately latched myself to. I took her offered hand and clung to her. When we were getting on the bus, they nearly took her away. A man in uniform stood at the bus entrance and stopped her.
“Marissa Steele. I was here for an interview at the school today…”
“So you’re not a teacher here?” The man was checking a list.
“I’m sorry, but for procedural reasons, we can’t transport you with the children.” She didn’t seem angry that she couldn’t continue with us. However, I wouldn’t let her go.
“No!” I clung to her tighter, “Please let her come? Please?” I looked up at the soldier, but he didn’t seem to change his mind.