I lived with my husband and six children in a rented flat, and I was pregnant with my youngest son. We had just started laying the foundation of our own place. It had been raining since the night before, but I took my umbrella and went out early in the morning to buy things for my fannah makit (food stall).
I was returning when I overheard other passengers on the bus. Someone said, “It made a loud boom.” Another said, “Maybe it was an accident.” Some of us, including me, started panicking then. This was our area they were talking about.
As I approached my place, I saw the hill collapse. Later, I came to know it was the second time. I heard the loud boom. Large rocks were rolling down and stones were flying through the air. If they hit your head, they could cut it right off. People were running towards us, away from the hill. I dropped my shopping and ran, without turning back.
I survived only because I went out that morning. By the time I was finally able to go back, I could not see anything of our building. The whole place was covered in mud.
Three of my children were away at my mother’s place upcountry, so they escaped. But I lost three daughters that day. I never even saw their bodies. Marie, my eldest, was seven months pregnant. She was so sweet. She used to help with the younger ones and buy me so many things — like slippers. My husband Brima was gone too. He was a mason. He used to take care of us.
I think I fainted. I was carried somewhere. When I woke up, I went into a crazy mood. People calmed me down and catered for me that day. We had good neighbours, so I was able spent three months at our neighbour’s place, until I gave birth to my son.
The government sent food supplies sometimes. During my stay, a woman came to me and invited me to take a micro-credit loan. So I took the money and invested in stone-breaking. I break stones and use part of the money I make to pay the loan back.
Now that the rains have come, I cannot take the loan because I cannot pay them back. I don’t want to be disgraced. Also, people don’t do much building in the rainy season, so there is not much demand for stones.
It is not easy. All those who used to support me and my little children are gone. When I sit at home alone sometimes, while the kids are in school, my heart breaks because I remember.
Most of the men these days are halaki, not sober. When they learn that I have three children, they run away from me. So it’s hard to find a man to support me. I wish that someone would help me just to support my children’s education. I know if they are educated, I will not suffer tomorrow. If they are not educated, we will all suffer. I also want to learn a skill that I can use to find a job. I don’t want to keep breaking stones.
Photograph by Joshua Yarjah