My brother and I were playing outside in our front yard in a small village called Atchuvelli in Srilanka. Our mother was in the kitchen preparing for lunch. Our father was living in Canada at that time. It must have been like 11 am. My mother came out of the kitchen and looked up at the sky. We knew what was happening as this was a routine for us. The sound of a helicopter can be heard a little far away. That only means one thing, trouble is coming our way. She stood outside for about 5 minutes and the noise was only getting louder. She dropped everything she was doing and went to grab a few blankets. We knew the drill. We put on our slippers and waited for her at the front gate. She grabbed us and walked in a speed that was hard for us to keep up with.
The noise of the helicopter rotor was no match for the shells that were coming out of them. This helicopter shelling was not a new thing for us. It happened all the time. This time it was very close to home. My mother must have known. Even though we had an underground shelter in our house, my mother always took us to the neighbour’s underground shelter. She was scared that if something happened to us that no one would find us.
We got to the shelter just in time. Our mother told us to go down first and then she came in, she always did that in the hope that if anything happened we would survive since she will be closer to the opening of the shelter. There were 14 of us in that underground shelter. It was a really big one. There was room for us to lie down in case we had to stay down there for days. We all waited for that helicopter to pass by. All the adults in the shelter were praying that this shelter would survive the shells. I can only imagine how scared my mother would of been. After 3 or 4 hours, my friend’s dad told us that it was safe to come out. We did indeed survive this time. We said bye to our friends and came back home.
I can remember this incident like it was yesterday. Even after coming to Canada, my brother and I would jump every time we heard the sound of a helicopter. That fear stayed with us for many years.
The civil war in Srilanka lasted more than 25 years and took the lives of 100,000 people.