She also doesn’t remember the version of her story her three brothers do: as a 2-year-old crying in the arms of her grandmother as rebels entered the mosque where they took cover from the violence outside. A rebel’s bullet shattering her arm as it passed through and killed her grandmother, leading her mother to rush across the room to save her. Her mother getting shot as she did so, suffering bullet wounds that would kill her one month later. Her eldest brother Alhaji, then 11 years old, now a college student in Freetown, running back into the mosque to retrieve Memuna, left for dead, and carry her miles across the city to the hospital.
“It doesn’t really feel like I lived in that time period,” said Memuna, pried away from her friends on a recent sunny fall day at the St. Andrew’s soccer field. “It’s like hearing a story. You’re like, ‘Okay,’ and just move on. Because I don’t remember anything, it’s not like it’s my story.
“When my brother told me, I was sad, but more sad for him than for me. He remembers it all.”
In her own words
Memuna remembers more of the tale her adoptive parents tell about her: a Brooklyn prosthetist raised Rotary Club funds to bring a group of Sierra Leonean children to the United States to build them limbs lost in the war.
She’s seen pictures of herself in the arms of Bill and Hilary Clinton and with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. She’s heard others’ versions of the time when she and others testified at the United Nations and to the U.S. Senate about the atrocities in Sierra Leone, and about being part of a demonstration in front of the Cartier store in New York, protesting the lawless and brutal West African “blood diamond” trade that partially fueled and funded the war.
She’s heard how Kelly McShane, a former Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Sierra Leone, and her husband Kevin received a newsletter saying adoptive families were needed for the children. She’s been told about Kelly and Kevin, a former soccer coach at St. Albans School, being told to come take Memuna home.
But these aren’t the stories Memuna focuses on when she talks to friends. In fact, it’s only been recently that she started telling those stories at all. She used to wear long sleeves to mask the missing arm, didn’t want to talk about what had happened to it, and all the questions that her physical appearance naturally inspired.