My family home in Freetown was on Earl Street. It had one floor on top, and an office at the bottom. It was built with bricks and painted yellow and light grey.
On the day of the fire, I was sitting outside with my grandchildren, Marie and Martha, when we heard a loud 'boom-boom' sound. I thought a tire had burst. But it was an explosion from our neighbour’s house. There was smoke coming from one of the rooms.
The first thought that crossed my mind was the money inside our house—my grandchildren had just been paid their salaries. I ran inside to get the cash. One of the girls also rushed in, to alert my sister-in-law, who was taking a bath.
The smoke had already taken over our house. I was coughing and my eyes became dark. I had to run out of the house without retrieving the monies. If I had stayed even a little longer, I don’t think I would have come out alive.
People around called the fire service, but we couldn't get through. Then they called their relatives who worked there. But by the time the firefighters came, it was too late. The fire only appeared to intensify when they tried to douse it with water. Even two trucks of water was not enough.
We lost our home.
Our neighbour died in the fire, but we only found out about it the next day. We didn't know he was stuck inside. I didn’t have a close relationship with him, but he was someone whom I greeted regularly.
It was not easy for me to move on after that day. I couldn’t eat or sleep for a long time; I was too scared and shocked. After what I have gone through, I can tell people that life is full of challenges. I had never thought a day like that would come when I would lose all my life savings in the blink of an eye.
It is almost two months after the event. I am still struggling to get back on my feet. My family and I were left with just the clothes we wore and our phones. Where we now live is too small. I sleep on the floor every day and take pain killers the next morning because my back hurts.
Since the incident, not a single government official has come to visit us. A few people working in the private sector helped us with some cooking items.
I have become closer to God. After the incident, I committed all that I have to the Almighty. I have no other means to help replace what I have lost. I keep praying for His mercy.
Photo: Fatmata Binta Bah. Graphic: Sunil Krishnan