When I Remember that Dark November

Read Psalm 27:1-5.

It was November of 1989. I was nine, and I lived with my parents in San Salvador, El Salvador.

The country had been at war for several years now. There had been two or three times already in previous years when I had woken up to the sound of helicopters, gunshots, and explosions. Car-bombs were also a usual topic in the news.

I think it was Saturday when my cousin had come to visit. We were riding bicycles in the living room. Suddenly, we heard a loud explosion outside.

We stopped riding our bikes and sat on the couches, where my stepdad and mom joined us. For a long time we stayed away from the windows and the second floor as an airplane flying in the area kept firing.

I did not understand why this was happening. All I knew is that already for some days, I had seen a troop in the area. I had even spent time talking to them: they had shown me some of their guns and bullets, and I had shown them my skateboard.

“I knew a kid with a skateboard,” one of them said. “He crashed against a lightpost and died. Be careful.”

When the situation was over that same day, my mom drove my cousin to his house. When she returned, I think she said that she had bought food and gas: she had heard that things would grow worse.

The next day, the situation was indeed much worse. There were several loud explosions and much gunfire right outside our house. The airplane had returned, and there was a helicopter too.

At first, we took refuge in my parents’ bedroom upstairs. My parents were trying to use the phone and a radio to call for help. I think they were told to stay inside and not to go out.

I began to cry, and I remember my mom asked me why I was crying. I told her, “Nos vamos a morir,” which means we’re going to die. My mom said, “Where is your faith? Have faith. The Lord is going to take care of us.”

Over the next couple of days, we took refuge in a storage room beneath the stairway. Due to the fighters using mortars, my mom thought this room would be most likely to be left standing if the house were to collapse.

We knew the guerilla had captured the house next door, among other houses. We could not enter the kitchen because, from the neighboring terrace, they could see us and fire; and we could not leave the house either.

My parents also heard chiseling on the wall: the gerrilla was trying to dig a hole through the concrete walls to get into our house (this is what the guerrilla had been doing in several portions of the country, traveling through the houses to protect themselves from the army).

Thankfully, they never made it into our house.

That was our situation until we finally were able to evacuate our home one morning after a couple of days. Someone came with the media to alert us (and the rest of the neighborhood) that we had a chance to run away because the fighting had moved over a few blocks away.

We ran out of the house, and then we walked fast downhill. My mom told me from time to time not to look at the bodies on the road, but there were several (I recently found a picture of my neighborhood after the conflict: a soldier is standing proudly next to a trashcan, wherein there’s a dead body).

We spent that night in a house that had been designated as a refuge. From the terrace in the house, I saw the helicopters flying in formation and firing at the area where we had been the last couple of days. It seems that since the residents had been able to evacuate, the air-force was now able to strike with more force.

It has been nearly three decades since all this happened. I don’t think much about those days. But the fact that I can say these things are a memory in the distant past is a reason for me to thank the Lord for keeping me and my family safe and alive all these years.

Whenever I remember that dark November, I also rememer that God was taking care of us. My mom directed my attention from my fear to the Lord’s grace, and she did this because she herself had faith.

Questions for Reflection

  • Have you ever faced a dangerous situation when you felt you needed the Lord’s protection?
  • Do you believe Psalm 27:1-5 is appcable to you and me?
  • How can we develop such confident faith in God as the one expressed in Psalm 27:1-5?

Pray with Me

I thank you, Lord God, for all the times you have protected my life and rescued me from danger, for preserving me from the past up to this day, and for all the blessings I have experienced in my life. Help me to learn from my previous experiences that I can trust you even today and forever. Amen.

Videos Below

I found these documentaries on YouTube on the war in El Salvador. In the first videoe, several people discuss the war and their experiences. The second video contains some scenes from the battle of 1989.

Different people explain the war in El Salvador
News with scenes from the war. Graphic images.

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