Hear Me

The day I abandoned my family

Dominic Sakilla Sesay, on life after the mudslide
By Suphian Bangura
16 July 2021
Dominic Sakilla Sesay, Mortomeh

The year 2017 changed my life.  It is the year I realised that I would abandon my wife and children to save myself.

I inherited some land in Mortomeh. I constructed three houses there, using zinc sheets. In June 2017, I moved into one of the houses with my family, including my nieces and nephews, and leased out the other two.

On August 14, it rained. The sky poured down. My wife and I were watching Handle Me With Care (a television series). We could barely hear the characters over the sound of the rain on the roof. The roof was beginning to leak.

Around 5 am, I was jolted awake by a big boom. I thought it was my neighbour’s wall crashing. I pushed aside the window curtain to see people shouting and running. Shelters and structures that had stood at a distance now appeared closer. It was as if the the whole place had zoomed in.

When I tried to open our door, water mixed with mud pushed in. We began shouting. Luckily, some people came to our help. I was the first one to get out. Outside, I saw a rock—a huge rock bigger than our house—looming over us. If it had rolled over once more, we would have been crushed to death.

That is when I began to run. I was confused—it must have been the shock—and I ran, leaving behind my family, who was still inside our home. It was then that I realised that I love myself more than I love my wife and children.

I ran into mud and water. It was like quicksand, thick and difficult to get through. I felt electric current in the mud. I saw dead bodies and limbs. But I swam and crawled and somehow got to safety.

Rescue workers took me to the nearby Regent Community Centre. I could barely speak, but people say I was talking to myself. I stayed there for three days. I found out that my family, who I had abandoned, had survived.

That day, I lost all three of my zinc houses. My tenant and his five children died. Another tenant lost his wife and has gone mad. All the money in my osusu (a micro-financing scheme) business was lost. But I am thankful to God for sparing my life and my family.

I am not working now. As I did not finish school, I do not have any skills and I have not been able to find a job. My wife sells raw pepper, onions, rice, palm oil, and dried fish to feed our family.

I am asking the government to remember the survivors of the mudslide. I am pleading with the international world.  The cost of living in Freetown is unbearable for a common man like me.

Photograph: Suphian Bangura