Making America Home
Sep24

Making America Home

With the echo of gunshots arousing fear into the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, sophomore soccer player Imani Innocent and his cousin run with a crowd of fellow villagers. They don’t know where they are running, but they know they have to keep running. Both are just 8 years old. Goma is located on the border with Rwanda, the area ravaged by genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi that led to the violent deaths of countless people. It was a day in 1996 just like any other. “We were just eating lunch,” he said. “(Then) we heard gun shots. People were shooting. Me and my cousin just took off and left my family behind,” Innocent said. “We just followed the crowd. Everybody was running with babies on their backs and mattresses on their heads.” Innocent and his cousin spent the night next to strangers, not knowing whether their parents were dead or alive. Looking for a Familiar Face “So in the morning, we started looking in everybody’s face … to see if there was anybody that we know, like part of the family, and there was no one,” Innocent said, “So we almost gave up hope.” Soon after, one of their relatives spotted them, and they were reunited with the rest of the family. They made plans to travel the three-day journey to safety in his mother’s village, Masisi. Innocent said, “If you were in a car, they would take you out and kill you and take the car. Genocide from Rwanda was affecting the lives of people in the surrounding countries, such as the Congo. In Masisi, where his grandfather was the pastor of the local church, his family tried to get back to life as normal. “There we started all over again. We had a house,” Innocent said. He started attending school, where students were taught French and Swahili, the language spoken in central and eastern Africa. Unfortunately, peace of this small village near the border of Rwanda was short-lived. Facing Danger Again “We had everything going,” Innocent said, “but it wasn’t long before war broke out again.” This time Innocent says he was “smart enough” to stay with the family. “We all waited at the same place … we went to a bush that was nearby to hide ourselves,” he said. Within moments their ability to remain unseen behind the leaves became a matter of life and death. “My mom said, ‘I don’t trust this place. Let’s move into the bush a little bit. I don’t trust that this can keep them from seeing us.’” The family quietly made their way farther into...

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