Several years ago I was going through a terrible personal crisis and a fellow mother at my daughters school put this book in my hand saying, "I think you should read this." I stammered a thank you, not really getting the connection to why I should read it at this particular time in my life, but it turns out to have been JUST the right book at JUST the right time. Later she admitted she had no idea why she felt compelled to lend it to me, but when I told her how powerfully it impacted my life at the time, she was thrilled.. to say the least.
Left To Tell is an incredible story of survival during a completely unimaginable harrowing experience had by Immaculee Ilibagiza and the other women of this story. It begins with Immaculee's youth where she learned her first startling lesson about the ethnic hostility among tribes in Rwanda. She was in a public school for the first time in grade 4 when the teacher yelled for children to stand when their tribe name was called. Immaculee did not stand at any tribe name. She was thrown out of her class in disgust when she claimed she did not know what tribe she was from. Her brother told her that whatever tribe her friends were from, that was the tribe SHE was then from. She must be "one of them"... in other words, one of the majority she was associated with. It turns out she was actually one of the Tutsi, and therefore a death sentence was already placed on her young head, along with every one of her family.
Several years later it is April 1994 and the president has just been assassinated. The genocide has begun. During the next 100 days over 1 MILLION people were brutally murdered by the rebels, merely for belonging to the "wrong" tribe. To save herself Immaculee was told to go to a pastor's house, and along with 6 other women, to wait out the violence:
Pastor Murinzi carried a flashlight and led us down the dark hallway to his bedroom. Our eyes followed the beam of light along the walls until it landed on a door that I assumed opened to the yard.
"This is where you'll stay," he said, swinging the door open to reveal our new home: a small bathroom about four feet long and three feet wide. The light shimmered as it bounced off the white enamel tiles on the bottom half of the walls. There was a shower stall at one end and a toilet at the other -- the room wasn't big enough for a sink. And there was a small air vent/window near the ceiling that was covered with a piece of red cloth, which somehow made the room feel even smaller.
I couldn't imagine how all seven of us could possible fit in this space, but the pastor herded us through the door and packed us in tight. "While you're here, you must be absolutely quiet, and I mean silent," he said. "If you make any noise, you will die. If they hear you, they will find you, and then they will kill you. No one must know that you're here, not even my children. Do you understand?"