27 January 2002.
Early that evening Muhmee and I had gone to Aunty Zubaida’s visiting day in boarding school. I was so excited; I had missed my aunt even though I knew I would regret that thought the minute school was out for the term.
“Bye-bye, smallie!” Aunty Zubaida had smacked my head as she swaggered off to join her friends. The visit had been hurried; she claimed she had to finish some homework for class the next day. I doubted that was the case, imagining that there was some exciting event that she needed to be at. On the ride home, I watched the passing cars quietly, my head resting on the window. I couldn’t shake a strange feeling as I replayed the scene in my head—Aunty Zubaida walking away and suddenly what seemed like a thousand birds flying overhead. The air had changed, and the school quickly seemed to be quieter.
Something bad will happen to her. A strong inkling had convinced me that the miserable feeling I had was more than just disappointment that she had rushed off before I had even gotten a chance to rememorize her face.
The earth suddenly started to rumble in the midst of usual Lagos traffic, and I shot up in my seat, clutching my thumping chest. My first impossible thought as I searched Muhmee’s face for assurance was that an earthquake had missed its route and nestled in the Nigerian earth. Next thing I knew, Muhmee was parking on the side of the road as chaos erupted all around us. The sound of glass shattering in the distance and a frantic woman screaming, “Bomb blast!” had me questioning reality. There was nowhere to go. Muhmee rushed me out of the car. “Come out!” she ordered, her voice shaking as she murmured prayers.
Somehow we ended up under the car just as a crowd of people broke out of every corner running helter-skelter. By this point, I was huddled so close to Muhmee under our Jeep that I could smell the fear on her breath, both of us with our eyes shut, hoping and praying for the terrorism to pass over us. Cramped and shivering in fear, I wondered if staying put was the best course of action. Didn’t we need to run too, away from what appeared to be the direction of the danger?
Every true born Nigerian knows that when chaos erupts anywhere in your vicinity and you see a mass of people running, you run with them.
No questions asked.
Nigerians were a discerning group and could smell danger from a mere thought. There never were a people who loved their life more and who would flee from danger so as not to meet the same fate as the curious cat.
Osondu, Dahdee called it in his Igbo language. To run for one’s life.
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