“Did you feel that?” I asked the whole room. “Whoa! What’s happening? The house is….”
“Flip to Channels”, Dad said as he interrupted me. I wasn’t ready to stop watching KND but Dad sounded really serious and so I obeyed. The lady on the news was reporting a bomb blast. None of us believed. I thought she was talking about a bomb blast in another continent but another house shaking tremor cleared all our doubts.
“There’s been a bomb blast in the Maryland Cantonment. Chaos and a lot of destruction have been reported in places like Alausa, Ikeja…..” the newscaster reported. I, Dad and Ruby froze when we heard Ikeja.
One thing came to our minds……….. MUM…….and the baby.
Dad immediately reached for his phone on the center table and dialed mum’s number. She picked after the first ring.
“Honey, what’s happening? Are you okay? The baby? What’s happening?” Dad asked clearly sounding extremely worried.
“The house has been shaking. Outside, cables are burning and the roads are filled with confused people. What should I do? My car’s bad. I told you to take it to the mechanics that time, I told you. But no, you didn’t list…..” Dad sensed a long rant coming and so he cut her off when he said, “Were coming to get you”.
My sister and I were scared. Dad’s conversation with mum was in Yoruba and our knowledge of the language was still shaky at that time.
As he grabbed his keys, my sister and I began to run to the car. We knew there was no time to waste. Dad simply threw a casual uninterested wave of the hand at his friend. There was no time for any explanations.
It wasn’t long before we were out K Estate and on the road that ran straight to Ikeja. The car was quiet. None of us said a word. Midway through the ride home, we encountered a great crowd on Allen. Dad’s car didn’t have an air conditioner so we could hear the cries of people as they ran about obviously aimlessly through the window on Dad’s side. Most 0f them banged on the windows of cars that passed hoping to get a ride out of the chaos zone. Dad didn’t seem fazed. Obviously, the only thing on his mind was the rest of his family at home. Ruby began to cry because she was scared. I hugged her tight and told her everything would be fine.
Not too long after the crowd on Allen, we were home. Dad told us to stay put before he rushed out of the car and ran into the house. Few minutes later, he came out with Mum and the baby. Mum looked funny because she had a wrapper round her waist and a camisole on. When they were all in the car, Dad began to drive. Just drive. Mum was extremely nervous and scared. She began to dial friends and family to know if they were alright. A bunch of them didn’t pick up and that left all of us imagining all sorts.
Mum and Dad were still contemplating regarding where to drive to. Dad suggested we go to Magodo since his friends there said it was peaceful and safe at the time. After Mum agreed, Dad made a sharp turn that took all of us by surprise. He apologized and our drive to Magodo began.
Surprisingly, the roads leading to Magodo were free. One would expect every road to be jammed considering the mass movement of human and vehicle evacuating every place where the tremors were felt. Soon enough, we encountered another crowd. This one was way larger than the previous one. There was no alternate route so we have to keep moving, slowly though, but progress is progress.
We were in Magodo finally. Our destination was practically in sight already when Mum got a call from one of her sisters. Dad pushed hard on the brakes when Mum grabbed his thigh as she shouted. He asked her what the problem was. She told him her sister was stuck somewhere and we had to go get her.
I’m sure she wasn’t ready to take no for an answer because Dad immediately turned around and we found ourselves returning to the scenes of pandemonium we had just left.
We finally got to where Aunty Pelumi was. Mum called her when we seconds away and told her we were there but on the other side of the road. Aunty Pelumi answered and told Mum to ‘flash’ her when we were ready.
Suddenly, a loud noise came from the front of the car. My baby sister began to cry. It was understandable so no one complained. None of us was sure what the problem was and since Dad was the techy guy in the arena, we all turned to him. He returned an exhausted look at us before he stepped out to check what was wrong. Traffic was heavy so his stepping out of the car in the middle of the road affected nothing. He came back into the car and told us the problem was a huge one, blah, blah, blah, stuff I didn’t really understand.
Mum began to panic. She called Aunty Pelumi and explained what had just happened. Aunty calmed Mum down and told her we could take her car but we would have to cross over to the other side of the road. The other side of the road was free so it seemed like a wise idea. I guess it was because of the fear, no one actually felt it was awkward to abandon our own car.
When Dad and Mum were done speaking about Aunty Pelumi’s idea, they told us to step out of the car. Ruby was asleep now so it took a while to wake her up. Girl’s a really deep sleeper. Soon enough, we were all out of the car. Mum was vibrating furiously. That was the first time I’d seen her so agitated. She handed her baby to me as she adjusted her wrapper.
We proceeded to run across the road since the cars that were approaching looked far away. I still don’t understand how but something really unbelievable happened.
The baby slipped out of my grip. It was like a joke. I immediately turned around and bent down to grab my sister. There was no time to check if she was okay since a brown Mercedes Benz V-boot was really speeding towards me. It was tough to get her up because the wrapper she was wrapped in was all over the place and I was tiny so it was inevitably going to be tough for me to get it all arranged in a short time. The V-boot was dangerously close at the time. I grabbed her along with the part of the wrapper in my hand, closed my eyes and jumped out of the way. I felt sharp pains of the asphalt bruise my shoulder and my hands felt somewhat lighter. I got up when the sound of the car was gone and heard my mum and sister really crying profusely. Aunty Pelumi had Ruby in her arms. Dad stared at me like he wanted to kill me. I was confused as to what I’d done to warrant the soul-piercing look.
It was then it hit me, the baby I was holding, or I thought I was holding was nowhere to be found. I looked around and saw the white wrapper she was in many steps away. Mum was next to the wrapper in a kneeling position, crying hard. I ran towards her and I saw what I never thought I’d see.
Different thoughts filled my mind. What I imagined was definitely what happened but I forced myself to believe it was a lie. As I got closer, I saw that the white wrapper was red in some places. Blood? No. It couldn’t be possible. None of us were bleeding.
It has to be a lie.
Could it be her?
No, just no.
It’s sad how we can’t the past. How if something happens, we can’t change it.
Well, it’s quite obvious what happened, isn’t it? The blood was my baby sister’s. Apparently, when I thought I jumped out of the way of the Mercedes, the wrapper got caught and the car dragged it along with it until it tore off.
There she lay, her remains of course. My sister, now a tiny bag of blood and ‘not fully developed’ bones
I don’t want to talk about it anymore. That night was BAD. I’d never felt so much pain.
The longer I spend recalling the experience, the more real the pain feels.
God bless my family for never making me feel I killed my sister even though I did, kind of.
Dad and Mum didn’t make any m0re babies after her. So now, there are just two of us, that’s me, and Ruby.
To be honest, nobody saw the events of that evening/night coming. The day was going fine. I mean, church was great, we had eaten good food, there was light at home (Before we left at least). We were happy, all five of us. And now, the now of then, January 27th 2002, we were four. Just like that.
And now, the now of now, April 23rd 2014, twelve years later, we are still four. I thank God.
It hurts that I never knew her name. There’s nothing to remember her with. The guilt tries to eat me up when I remember but that’s a battle I know I can never lose. The past can’t hold me back. She might be gone, but she will forever be in my heart.
Forgive me sister. I’ll always love you.