The Brave by Julia Seitz

Ayotunde is a small girl. She has large inquiring eyes and beautiful deep brown skin. She has endured much and been left by many. But Ayotunde still loves, she shares her love in any way she can. This is her story…

Ayotunde was only seven years old when rebels attacked her village in Rwanda. Her mother was tending to her baby sister Ebele, at the time. When suddenly they heard screams and loud explosions, she could see smoke rising from surrounding houses. What was happening? Ayotunde felt her mother (Nnenna) grab her hand and start to run.

Nnenna’s eldest son, Chinwe escorted the youngest four children up the Marula tree behind their hut so that Ebele and Ayotunde were on the highest branches. Then Ekene and Zuri found some rough branches to uncomfortably balance on.

You could feel the tension in the air, everyone could feel it. It was so strong, that by the time it was time it was Nnenna and Chinwe’s turn to climb the tree it was too late. They could hear the rebels coming. So Nnenna boosted Chinwe up into the tree, turned her head and started to run.

In that single moment everything imaginable was running through Nnenna’s head. Nothing made sense; she wished she could have said one more encouraging word to her children before she left. That they would be okay, and that if they concealed themselves they could survive. That’s when it hit her, she could say those words.

She would rather die than leave her children. She had sacrificed everything for her children, her food, and her money. She wasn’t about to throw all those hours of love and devotion away into the dust. When suddenly she dropped to her knees, and let out a cry of salvation. She couldn’t leave her children. She was a single mother, she was weak. Her skin had been dried from the desert sun and her hands rough like sand paper. Maybe she couldn’t defeat the rebels, but she had the strength of love.

When Chinwe heard his mother fall to the ground, he ran towards the echoing sound forgetting any other commands. When he found her he placed his hand on her shoulder and whispered calming words into her ear. It wasn’t over, he knew they were in danger but they were still capable of surviving. He helped her to stand and ran towards the tree with her. They needed to move faster! They’d wasted too much time already.

Zuri gave her brother her hand to help him into the tree. He was out of breath and struggling to get a strong grip on her sweaty hand. When he had been pulled into the tree, they helped their mother up as well, while everyone else moved higher into the branches.

4yr old Ebele looked out of the tree’s lush green leaves. From her view point she could see some large men coming from her house. They scared her; they were big and had large black toys? She was about to let her confusion out with a scream when she heard a huge explosion.

The Marula tree started to fall, Ekene yelled to Ayotunde and Ebele to hold on tight else they would fall off. When he realised his mother, brother and sister weren’t on the tree trunk! Where had they gone?

Everything went black

Ayotunde woke to the surprise of lying under the Marula tree branch she had been sitting on. She rubbed her eyes and slowly pulled herself up. Left of her Ebele was lying uncomfortably on the red ground her wild hair encompassed in twigs and dirt. Then she saw Ekene, he was under a tree branch. Ayotunde jumped up and tried to roll the trunk from Ekene’s back with success. As soon as the trunk was off Ekene he awoke and looked intently at Ayotunde.

She was alive! Ekene looked to his right and saw Ebele breathing heavily as well and smiled to himself. Everyone was okay! But where were Zuri and Chinwe, what about mother? Then it hit him. They were gone. Gone. To a better place, never to return, he tilted his head again to see Ayotunde, she was crying. “Where’s Zuri and Chinwe?” she asked with so much sincerity he couldn’t say anything but the truth. “They are gone” he said. “Gone? “Asked Ebele as she woke, “Yes, Ebele gone” he replied…

After hours of sitting in a small circle next to the Marula tree Ayotunde arouse and took Ebele’s hand. “Let’s go find Mummy” she told her. As they walked away Ekene shouted out for them to stop “Tunde wait!” “What?” asked Ayotunde, “You won’t find mother?” He said “Why not?” Ebele questioned as her eyes began to well up with tears.

Ekene sat Ebele and Ayotunde down next to the fallen Marula tree and explained why their family wouldn’t come back. His story was full of compassion and was not at all sad but, renewing.

Ekene told them of how brave there family had been, and how they had stayed by their ‘posts’. He told them why it was their time to be brave and protect their home now. He told them why they should stand up tall and say that they did not runaway in fear but stood their ground. Soon everything would be okay.

Most of all he told them that from now on they must love each other just as much as before and a little more, because even though there aren’t as many hearts beating didn’t mean there couldn’t be as much love to go around.

So this family still share each other’s love every day with everyone. Because they know how special there love is and how little time they have to share it. For Tunde, Bel and Ekene did not grieve and hide-away after they lost the people they loved. They took their loss and used it to fuel their lives. They took their sadness and turned it into love, for the others who were suffering. They did not look at their lives and pick out all the injustices they had endured. They stood tall and stood by their posts. They witnessed horror but stood in defiance.

Because anyone can be The Brave…