I was scared as we got into the boat but I remember what my father had said to me-
“don’t worry sweetheart, it is a short boat ride and then all will be fine. You and your brother will have a better life, you will have friends, you will be able to go to school and you will not have to see people get hurt. Your mother and I will always take care of you and things will be normal again”.
I had always been scared of the water and it was so dark, but I held onto my dad’s hand as we got in. There were not many people on the boat but all of them looked as scared and tired as I was. We sat in a small corner – my father putting his arms around my brother and I, as we sat on either side with our mother sitting behind us. I looked back to see her but I couldn’t – it was so dark but I felt her hand on my head. I could always recognise her touch – it was always the same – warm and always made me feel calm.
The boat had just started going into the sea and it was very bouncy and I was falling off the seat. I held onto my father very tightly but it did not seem to be getting any better. We could hear the waves outside and some of the women started to weep. I was scared and just held onto my father even harder. It had not been long and the sea was really rough and all of a sudden water was coming into our boat. People were screaming now and very soon my shoes and legs were all wet. We had fallen off our seat and my brother was hurt and crying. I could hear him say to my dad “don’t die daddy” and I was thinking the same. My dad kept saying “don’t worry, I will always take care of you” even as he waded in the water, holding us and telling the people to remain calm.
Before we knew it, water was all over the boat, then we heard a big noise and all of a sudden we had all fallen into the sea. It was dark and scary and people were screaming. My dad was holding me and my brother under his arms so tightly that it was hurting me. But I didn’t complain – atleast I knew he was there and we were safe. He would not let anything happen to us. The waves were splashing us all around and I could feel his grip on me getting looser. I held onto him with my hands but I couldn’t get my arms around him completely. I tugged at his shirt to make sure I was still holding him. I was under the water and I couldn’t breathe any more.
Then all of a sudden, a big wave came and with that force I was thrown away, I could no longer hold onto his shirt. I was falling down. I wanted to call him but water went into my mouth when I tried to shout. I wanted to cry and say I was scared but even more water was going in. I was slipping away further from my dad and as I fell deeper I could feel his leg, then his shoes and then nothing at all.
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see and I was just falling down…Then all of a sudden I hit the floor.
I don’t know how long I slept but I remember hearing my mother’s voice calling out to me “wake up sweetheart its time to go”. I could feel her caress my face and kiss my forehead. It was always how she woke me up every morning and I would never forget it. I lazily opened my eyes expecting to see my bed and my room and my toys. But it wasn’t my room, it wasn’t my bed and I didn’t see my toys. There was water all around and I was on the ground. My mother was kneeling next to me and smiling as she always would, my brother was standing at a distance and he didn’t seem very happy. I don’t know why though.
I looked around and saw some of other people from our boat also sitting near-by. Some were asleep while some were awake and looking around. As I looked at my mother again I realised that while I was still under water it was not like yesterday. It was calm, I could breathe and even speak. It was brighter, not dark and cold like last night. I was not scared anymore. I think we had reached where my father had said we were going. But I couldn’t see him anywhere.
I turned my head and tried to find him as far as I could see but I didn’t see him. As I was searching, I heard my mother say
“lets go sweetie, its our time to go now”.
“But ma”, I said “I don’t see dad anywhere. Let’s find him and take him with us”.
“no sweetie, he will come later, we must go now”.
She held our hands and started walking up from the floor. We were going up the water and very soon we reached the top. It was bright and we were flying up in the air from the water. I was so excited. I had always wanted to fly and now it was true. We were going to touch the sky. I was so happy. My dad had told me I would have a better life but he never told me I would be able to fly.
Hey, but I still couldn’t see him anywhere.
As we were high up, I saw the water below and I thought I saw my dad holding onto a big wooden plank. I tugged at my mother and told her
“look ma, dad’s there, lets take him. Dad – dad, can you hear me. We’re here, come with us”. But he couldn’t hear us. My mother then spoke and said “darling he will come in his time, right now its our time”.
But I couldn’t understand, we were a family, he had told us that we would always be together and now how could we leave him and go. I tried to shout out to him again but we were too high up in the sky and he couldn’t hear us.
It was only much later that my mother told me why he couldn’t come with us – he was still alive. Now it all made sense, why the water was so calm, why I wasn’t scared and why I could fly. This is not what my dad had planned for us but we had no choice. We needed to get out of our country. We had lost too many of our people to war and everyday someone would be hurt and it was too dangerous to stay there. That’s when my dad told us that he would take us all very far away where we would be safe, even if it was the last thing he did.
My mother also told me that he had been crying since the time we had died and he blamed himself all the time. He was saying that he would go back to our country and live there until he died, he didn’t want to live anywhere else without us. And then I saw it all. My body had washed up on shore and I was wearing the same clothes I wore when we got on the boat that night. In time they also found my brother and my mother and the whole world mourned our death. My dad was a broken man, he would cry all the time and keep saying how he felt us slip away into the water that night. He blamed himself for what had happened to us and had we stayed in our country we would still have been together.
My mother told me that many people were saying that I was murdered by the cold heart of people and not the cold water and she hated them for letting us die like this. But I don’t know what to think, I don’t hate anybody but I really wish I was just with my dad. Maybe when people saw my photos and our bodies they would be more accepting of people like us and not let us die again. But I don’t know anything anymore.
I met this young boy now and he tells me he is from Sudan. He tells me that his photo also made the world cry but that was a long time ago. Yet even today people let us die. I don’t know why.
I just want to meet my father, hold him, play with him and tell him I love him. He was the best father and I know he was doing all he could to make our life better.
I want to tell him “Dad, don’t cry. You did nothing wrong. Don’t be guilty, you tried your best. Don’t waste the rest of your life just waiting to meet us. We are happy now and will be waiting for you on the opposite side. In time, we will be together. In time, people will understand and I pray they will not let this happen again”
But I know he will not get over this ever. Earlier, I would always play with him when he was upset and that would make it better but I cant do anything now.
I just want to say ‘Dad I miss you’
Note – the above is the blogger’s own interpretation of publicly available information.