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Almost Assassinated
After my dad was shot, we found safety in the U.S.
Carlos Rodriguez
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I grew up in Honduras, and when I was small, I had a loving and supportive family. Then, one horrible day, something happened that changed everything. It was almost Christmas. The phone rang and my sister, who was 12 at the time, picked up. After a moment, she started to cry and said that our dad had been shot by criminals. I just stood there, frozen.

My mom went to the hospital while I stayed home with my aunt and sisters. We closed all the doors and covered the windows because we were scared that the criminals could do the same thing to us. Later that night we got a call from my mom telling us that he was alive but seriously injured. I couldn’t sleep thinking about the possibility that my dad might die.

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Five days later, on Christmas, my dad got out of the hospital and he told us what had happened that night. He’d been driving home from work and noticed that he was being followed. The car stopped in front of him and two men with weapons started shooting. He got hit close to the heart. He got out of the car and flagged down help. On the way to the hospital he thought he’d died, because he could see a dark tunnel with a light at the end. At that moment he thought about my mom, my two sisters, and me.

Fear of Further Violence

I cried and asked why this had happened. My dad told me that because he was a politician, he was targeted for his political beliefs. He said I was too young to understand and that one day he would explain everything to me.

After the shooting, my dad looked skinny and older. Not only that, he was traumatized. He had nightmares and would wake up at night screaming. I also had nightmares about my dad or me being killed.

After a few months he had recovered physically and went back to work. I worried that he’d be targeted again. I pictured the criminals with ski masks, black gloves, and a gun, and had visions of him covered in blood.

Three years went by without another incident, but the shooting had changed my family. My mom and dad fought all the time and eventually decided to divorce. My mom wanted to take me with her to the United States so I would be safe. My dad said she’d take me over his dead body. I ended up staying with my dad, and my mom went to the U.S. Without her, I didn’t feel like myself. For a time, I was withdrawn and didn’t do as well in school.

Not Once, but Twice

Two years passed and my life became more stable as I adjusted to my mother’s absence. I was 10 now, and all the bad things seemed to be in the past. One day I was walking home from school with my dad.

“Dad, I have good grades again,” I told him.

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“I’m proud of you, son,” he replied. As my dad was about to open our front door, I turned to see a man holding a gun. Bullets went into the front door of our house but there was no sound. At that moment I thought, “This is it for me.”

“I am going to kill you,” the man said to my dad, aiming at my father’s head.

“Please don’t kill me,” my dad murmured. “I will give you anything you want, but please don’t kill me.” I thought about my dad being close to death before, and I couldn’t let that happen again. I threw my backpack on the ground and put myself in front of my dad. At that moment I wasn’t afraid of the gun or the man. My priority was protecting my father.

“Get out of the way or I’ll shoot,” the man said, now pointing the gun at my head.

“I am not going anywhere,” I told him. “Please don’t kill my dad; we will give you anything you want.” I fell to the ground, continuing to beg him as I cried. The man suddenly lowered his head and his gun. A black car picked him up and he was gone.

I helped my dad to his feet, afraid he’d been shot, but he wasn’t. I was speechless. I was so mad at the world for throwing these things at me. I was ready to escape Honduras, and my dad was, too.

Overcoming My Fears

It took a year of more fear and tears before we were finally able to come to the U.S. After visiting my mom in Miami, we moved to New Jersey to live with my aunt. I started school and the first few days were good, but then some students began bullying me. I felt like the world was against me no matter where I went. To make matters worse, my cousins made fun of me, calling me Carla or Carlita, the feminine version of my name. I cried all the time. Even though I was in the U.S., life was not getting better.

I decided to focus on school and it paid off. I got A’s in all my classes, and received awards for being an excellent student. I graduated middle school with high honors. I also started making friends. Things were looking brighter.

I was proud of myself because I thought of these achievements were proof that I was overcoming my problems. However, I am still trying to process the violence I’ve seen. I still have nightmares in which I die or am surrounded by danger.

Studying history and political violence in school has given me more perspective about what happened to my dad. It makes me sad that humans have not found peaceful ways to solve their problems, and that politically motivated violence continues around the world. Sometimes I would like to talk to my dad more about what happened to him, but I don’t like to bring up politics because being a politician destroyed his life.

People have told me that I should go to a psychologist to get some help working through all the trauma and losses I’ve experienced. I have considered it, but I’m not ready to deal directly with the fear and loss I feel. For now, I’m just trying to focus on the future.

(NYC-2015-09-11)