My name is Titilayo Adeyemi and I am 32 years old. I am a mother of two and my story is one that should provoke Africans living in the US to know more about the community which they live in. In 2012, I joined my husband in Michigan after years of filling for a Visa. When I got to the United States he was in the process of relocating to New Jersey. His former boss had two houses in the same compound in Atlantic City. He lived in one and rented out the other to him. The house was close to the Jersey shores. It was a good place to take walks. It was windy and a beautiful sight to behold. When we arrived Atlantic City the baby was a year and half old and the older one was 2 years plus. There was an African store in the neighborhood. I visited there often to shop, meet and chat with Africans. Little did I know that my whole world was about to change in less than three months.
On Friday, October 26, I was watching CNN in the evening and they were talking about Hurricane Sandy. They were afraid that it could come towards the East Coast. I felt helpless because my husband’s former boss and the family were on vacation and my husband was out of the state on work assignment. By Sunday evening the reporters were saying that there was more than a fifty percent chance that the hurricane could hit the state of New Jersey. Nothing looked out of the ordinary that day. The sky was beautiful and people appeared to be going about their businesses. I was chatting more frequently with my husband and he was of the opinion that since the storm had been downgraded it wouldn’t be a big deal. However, I still felt uncomfortable. On Monday morning, CNN and other news networks began to warn residence to move inland from the path of the storm. By noon the Sun was up and there were people at the shore front, although not as many. I went down to the African store and talked with some of the workers that I had gotten to know since I arrived Atlantic City. They appeared confident that the hurricane may likely change directions since it had done so many times. However, they told me that they all lived inland and would likely be headed home soon.
By 3pm we could feel the wind beginning to bear down on our home with some light drizzle of rain. The sound of the wind alone was frightening. I had never seen anything like it before. I stayed in constant communication with my husband until power suddenly went out. There was pitch darkness everywhere. I couldn’t even see my kids. This may have happened somewhere between 4.00 and 4:30 pm. I panicked. I got hold of the touch light and I immediately strapped my kids in their car sits and throw in some cloths, canned foods, water bottles, blankets, toiletries, African wrappers, etc. into the car. As a typical Nigerian woman I wrapped some cash and planted it between my breasts. My plan was to drive as far inland as possible.
When I got on the road, I noticed that the street and building lights were also out. The streets were empty. It was either everyone had left the area or they were weathering the storm in their homes. I couldn’t tell because I did not see light in any house. Nevertheless that did not matter to me. What mattered was getting to safety at all cost. Whatever that meant, since I had no real idea where I was going. I hadn’t driven up to four blocks when I noticed that it was getting difficult to see my way, even when my wipers were at full blast and my head lights were on. Water had covered the road all the way to the pavement and I couldn’t tell the pavement from the road. I drove in the middle of buildings just to ensure that I was on the roadway. Well, what I thought was the middle of the road. Suddenly the car hit a deep water pool in the road and couldn’t get out. I tried again and again but couldn’t get it out. I quickly stepped out of the car and opened the back door to get the kids. I was so terrified at this point. The water level was past my knee at that spot. I unbuckled the kids and tied both of them to my back with one of my African wrappers. I don’t even know how I did it. I started walking inland on Martin Luther King Blvd as fast as my legs could carry me.
At some point the rain became unbearable and I started looking for shelter. I just couldn’t find one. In what appeared to me like 20 minutes from the time I abandoned the car, the water level had risen to my waist and I couldn’t even see my way to safety, if there was one. However, I kept moving. At this time I had lost my bearing completely and couldn’t tell whether I was still headed inland. While walking and fighting the waters, I felt a weight around my waist tugging at me. I couldn’t tell what it was but it was impeding my progress. The kids were frantic and crying. All I could do was to keep moving. I tried to walk close to the walls of the buildings so that I can at least tell where I was relative to other points. Suddenly, a light shone at a distant place in front of me. After a while, I realized that the light was moving towards my direction. It turned out to be a homeless man with a touch light. He had spotted us somehow and had come to help. When he got to us I noticed that there was blood all over me. My older child had a deep cut that left part of his leg dangling and bleeding seriously. The man took his belt and tied my child’s leg very hard to reduce the blood flow. Then he helped me to get to an abandoned building nearby.
For two days we had nothing to eat except for some baked beans that the man provided from his rusty plate. He had several expired cans of it. He would empty it into the same plate without washing it. He gave us his blanket and made sure that we were well covered from the cold. I was worried for my children and so could hardly eat anything. I tried to feed them as often as I could to keep them alive. There was no morning or afternoon the next day and the day after that. It never stopped raining. Many weeks after that incident, I found out that there was an African shop right next door to the abandoned building. The owner was around throughout that period that we took refuge in the abandoned building. He was helping other Africans who dropped by for food and other needs. That was a real eye opener for me because if I knew that, then we wouldn’t have starved and I would have saved my child’s leg.
We at AfricaribTraders.com, have since undertaken the challenge to list every African and Caribbean store anywhere they are found in the United States and Canada, on Titilayo’s behalf for the benefit of all. If you shop in an African or Caribbean store, Please provide us with the following information:
Thank you very much.