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    Posted October 18, 2014 by
    Bradenton, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    On the front lines of Ebola

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    Kill the Lights: An Ebola Victim's Long Journey Home


    by Joe Shea


    BRADENTON, Fla. -- You're in a dismally poor, if vibrant, neighborhood of Sierra Leone. Dozens of your neighbors and their children - babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers - have contracted Ebola or have symptoms. You want to escape to America, but you can't.


    First of all there are no flights out of the affected countries directly to the United States, a detail the right-wing talk show hosts clamoring for a ban on flights failed to research. Flights from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have to go through London or Amsterdam.


    Even if there were, they'd probably stop you at the port of entry, New York, Atlanta or Miami. You'd get turned back home on the next flight, you presume.


    So what do you do? You're getting the sniffles, and you're afraid it's a symptom, as in fact it can be. You see the US Corps of Engineers hard at work on one of the 17 quarantine hospital facilities they're building, but the waiting list is growing long and you're not on it.


    Under pressure, Boko Haram has decided to move from Nigeria, and now they're in your neighborhood. They offer an escape - into oblivion. But at least you might be able to take a few of these foreign white devils with you, and a lot of the other young men you know, all of them similarly unemployed and symptomatic, seem inclined to do that.


    After all, you ask, what good are 17 facilities and 2,000 beds for a disease that is spreading at the rate of 10,000 a week? The terrorist army offers an automatic weapon, some pay and regular meals, even a girl, and to your poor worried brain, that seems like a solution.


    So, your new leaders say, let's try this: We'll hit the Americans in ambushes. We'll spread rumors about the vaccines the Americans are giving only to the rich. When the facilities are done, we'll gin up a crowd and overrun the hospitals with overwhelming numbers. If they have any vaccine, we'll get it first. Or so your new leaders say.


    In truth, there is nothing like being trapped to bring out the worst in people, especially when safer climes beckon like a tropical isle. Those who put themselves in between you and that isle, whether they're armed or foreign or whatever, are putting their lives on the line.


    Creating desperation by one means or another is an age-old tactic of war. Few who were alive then will ever forget the image of families and soldiers and children trying to scramble onto overloaded helicopters lifting off from the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975.


    An escape from Ebola wouldn't be like that, though. You couldn't escape from the US Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, any more than, under similar circumstances, you could escape from the US Embassy in Paris. It's not an airport. The helicopters aren't coming. The gates are sternly guarded by well-trained Marines with good weapons.


    What do you do? You have at least 50 years of life expectancy still left to you if you can get past Ebola, and if you can get some of the vaccine you may see those next 50 years. You might have children and a wife; you might get a good job, or even get rich, if only you could live.


    America and the welcoming Statue of Liberty has always been a beacon of hope. Now, if Republicans and right-wingers can take over, it can become a source of despair, an unattainable paradise - just like the Muslim one without the virgins.


    Should you just accept your fate, get sick and die? Or should you go out and fight to survive, and kill anyone in your way to do it?


    You really don't want to kill anyone, even Americans, but if that is the only path, and your newfound friends and neighbors will help, well? What does it matter, anyway, if you're going to die a horrible, painful, bleeding death?


    So far, America's President Barack Obama, himself a true son of Africa, will not allow incoming flights to be halted, even if there actually are none.


    You'll be tested on arrival in America at the airport, which is okay, and if it does turn out that you're sick, at least they'll take you to a hospital, care for you and feed you, and cure you if they can. And they won't even ask you for money if you don't have any.


    But if you can't get on a flight to America, maybe you can get on a flight to Mexico City or San Salvador or Tegucilgapa, Honduras, and from there make your way overland atop a freight train to the Texas or Arizona border, where thousands of people cross illegally every day, most of them successfully.


    It may mean infecting a few hundred people along the way, and you're sorry to do that. But Texas or Arizona have hospitals and facilities, vaccines and food; you can survive there. Anyway, the more people you infect the more vaccines and hospitals they will need to have. It's good for everyone.


    Well, here you are in America, the fruit of a haphazard plan that miraculously worked. They found you collapsed by the Redbox outside the 7-Eleven, gasping for air, and took you to a hospital in hazmat suits.


    Now you're on a gurney in a long white corridor, and on other gurneys, and in makeshift beds and chairs and pillows and seat cushions on the floor, are dozens of other people - maybe hundreds - just like you, moaning, sick, thirsty, broke and scared.


    They have already brought you water, but it's obvious there are no more beds. And there's no vaccine; there won't be for years. There are only hundreds of sick, desperate people in an American hospital corridor, waiting for something to give you hope.


    Hope, though, is fading fast. The once-antiseptic fluorescent ceiling fixtures have grown brighter by the hour. Now it seems like your eyes are being burned. Then the burning goes away and you think you're in some kind of wonderful, magic tunnel.


    Far off is a bright light, and ahead like a welcoming crowd at a homecoming parade are your father and mother and grandfather and grandmother, the younger sister who died of malaria so many years ago, and the younger brother killed in the last civil war.


    You are so happy to see them after all this pain and hunger and struggle. And they are so happy to see you. Into the light you go, whirling away to nothing. Now, your journey is done.


    Write Joe Shea at editor@american-reporter.com using the Subject line AR EBOLA, all in capital letters. Thank you.

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