Hear Me

For 7 days, I thought my son was dead

Maligie Kamara, on life after the mudslide
By Mahawa Kamara
14 August 2021
Maligie Kamara, Mortomeh

I worked as a driver for a commercial vehicle. That morning I left at 6am after the fajir (sunrise) prayer. It was raining heavily and continuously. As I was driving, I thought this rain might cause a disaster, but I never knew that the disaster would involve my family.

I was already in town when my boss called me, asking where I’d left my family. I said they were at home. Then, he called again and asked me to come quickly because water had taken over my mother-in-law’s place. I was driving home when my boss called for a third time. He said water had covered my house too. As I approached SS Camp, I saw a woman running and crying. She said the hill had cut down and covered half the community.

When I reached the scene, I saw people running everywhere. I heard someone saying that my entire family had died, including me.  I drove down the hill to where my mother-in-law lived. I could not find her house. When I went to look for my family, I could not identify where our house was either. It was all covered with water and mud.

Then I saw some people remove a man from the mud. It was my uncle. His head was crushed. I started running here and there, searching for my family. I realised I had lost my entire family.

Some members of my masjid took me to Ataya Base, where they told me that from Allah we have come and to Him we shall return. These statements gave me strength, but I could not take my mind off my family. As soon as I had the opportunity, I ran out as fast as I could to look for them.

When I reached the scene, I saw a caterpillar operator removing half of a woman’s body. It was my wife. I shouted at them to give me her body. But the crowd held me back. I fought and bit, but I couldn't get to her. My wife was taken away.

I never got to bury my family members. I don’t even know where they are since they were buried in mass graves.

As Muslims, we have to do the seventh day ceremony for our lost ones. I was just leaving after the ceremony when my phone rang. The caller asked if I was the father of Daniel Kamara. I said yes, but Daniel is gone. That’s when the caller, a doctor, told me that my son was still alive and in the intensive care unit at Connaught Hospital

I couldn’t believe my ears. I shouted out my thanks to God and rushed for the hospital. At the ICU, I saw my son lying on a bed. His broken hand was wrapped in POP (Plaster of Paris) and there were stitches all over his body. His foot had been amputated. I had to keep myself strong and not show Daniel I was crying. When he asked about our family, I lied to him… I said they all went upcountry.

As Daniel was getting better, he was transferred to a ward. One day, he was crying continuously in pain. I asked the nurses to help him with some drugs, but they said they could do nothing. Then the doctor asked me to sign for an operation on Daniel’s hand. It might need to be amputated too. I refused. How can I take care of my boy if both his arm and leg are amputated?

I went outside and cried. That’s when a man came to me and directed me to a journalist seated near the mortuary gate. The journalist tried talking to the nurses, but it all fell on deaf ears. The journalist got emotional looking at my son crying. The nurses told the journalist this is normal and not to bother. He took out his camera and started recording.

That day, the journalist took my interview and promised to air it. The same day, I received a call from the former Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden. She told me she would get my son transferred to Choithram Hospital for better treatment.

The following day, my son was transferred. He was operated upon again because the surgery at Connaught Hospital was not done properly. That was the reason why he was crying in pain day and night. We spent two months and 19 days there and my son healed well.

I went to the media to tell our story and donations started reaching us from sori-heart people. I say thanks to all who helped us. I am still asking sori-heart people to continue helping my son.

Today, I am stronger, knowing that all that happened to me was destined by Allah. But every August, the bad memories come back. I feel pain when Daniel watches his friends playing football and he cannot. Every Friday I used to dress well with my family to attend prayers, so I feel bad on Fridays too. Anytime it rains I feel bad.

August 14 is a very sad day for me and my boy. We will pray for those we lost the whole day.

Photo: Mahawa Kamara. Graphic: Sunil Krishnan