Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
I remember it was a cool fall night. I was anxious for the next day because it was the talent show, and I was dreaming of the dance routine that my best friend Katie and I were going to perform, when I was awoken from the dream by the gentle, manicured hands of my father.
He and my mother were in my bedroom with suitcases packed. My mother’s face wore a mixture of fear, dread and worry. Instead of carefully folded, her hijab was sloppily tightened as if she scrambled to fix it in the dark. Tears were gently streaming down her cheeks.
My father – who seemed to always have a smile on his face that was replaced by a determined stoic glare – picked me up into his arms, and we all quickly left our rustic one-level town house to the attached garage.
That’s when I heard the shouts and yells of those who didn’t want us there. They were going to kill us for what we did. I was confused and even more frightened than I already was. I turned to my father to ask what was going on, but before the words could escape my mouth, he put his fingers to his lips and shook his head left to right. I remained silent.
We all loaded up into the family minivan, and quickly – but quietly backed out and began driving toward the dark open sky. The light was just beginning to peak over the mountain ranges. The large fields of livestock were beginning to reanimate from the night’s slumber.
I looked toward the front of the minivan to where my mother and father were sitting and holding hands. I found that weird since my father barely showed affection outside of our home.
My father drove for what seemed like hours, while I slipped in and out of reality, dozing off here and there, only awaking at a pit stop. I was rushed to use the bathroom and leave by the urgency of my mother. I finally gathered up the courage to speak after our second pit stop.
“Father, why did we leave in the night? Why were those people yelling? Is everything ok?” While still driving, my father took a deep breath. He looked at my mother, and my mother looked deeply back at him and nodded.
“Emani,” my father began in a very smooth neutral-toned voice. Something very bad happened yesterday. People that looked like us hurt a lot of people and because they are not around to be punished, they are looking for other people to punish. “People that look like us. Were those people bad people?” I asked. My father seemed uneasy by that question. He rubbed his chin like he does when trying to answer a question that he couldn’t really answer. My mother was his saving grace and answered for him. She turned in her seat and looked at me. She then stated, “It is not that they were good or bad, but their actions for what they believed hurt a lot of innocent people.”
“Oh”, I said as I sat back, not really understanding. “Well where are we going now?” I asked. Once again my mother spoke, “We are going to a place that will be safe for us, a place where we have family and will hopefully not be run out or hurt by angry people.”
An hour later, we drove into a long line of cars all heading to a big blue bridge hanging high in the sky. Over a vast amount of water overhead was a digital sign that read 7:30 p.m., Wednesday Sept. 12, 2001. Welcome to Canada.
Justin A. Baker