Best of Freshman Writing

Volume 15

Table of Contents

Alana Augello 

Sebastien Kelome 

Ariel Mansfield 

Katie Rice 

Brandon Longe 

Sophia Reed 

Steven Lysomirski 

Heather Meier 

Svetlana Lewis 

Nader Mekheal 

Greg Shields 

Susan Cruz 

Candace Tilley 

Joe Pilling 

Amanda Crossett 

Cheryl Evans 

Joel Underwood 

Warren Levi Hursh 

Josh Stewart 

Heather Taylor

Sam Pickerine

Jared Martin

Christopher Brown 

Alexandra Pearce

Jacob Held

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Joe Pilling 
English 015

Immaculée Ilibagiza: A True Hero

While most people are aware of the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, many do not know about the amazing story of Immaculée Ilibagiza. Mrs. Ilibagiza survived the genocide under incredibly harsh circumstances. Living solely on scraps of food and faith in God, she was able to survive the massacres. However, her greatest achievements have come after her amazing story of endurance. Mrs. Ilibagiza’s strength, determination, and faith demonstrate what it means to be a truly honorable, brave, and downright tough human being.
    Mrs. Ilibagiza grew up in Rwanda under the care of a loving and educated family. Unfortunately, her country had long been divided between two major native groups, the Hutus and Tutsis, and Mrs. Ilibagiza and her family belonged to the latter. As social and political unrest continued to grow in 1994, the Hutus began to mercilessly annihilate the Tutsi people. This forced Mrs. Ilibagiza to leave her family and enter a period of living hell. Along with seven other women, Mrs. Ilibagiza spent three entire months in the bathroom of the home of a nearby priest. This bathroom measured roughly twelve square feet. She and her fellow neighbors lived in silence during the entire stay, for fear of being heard by Hutu henchmen. The women ate only the remains of food and nearly starved to death. Mrs. Ilibagiza herself lost nearly fifty pounds. Incredibly, the entire experience strengthened her faith in God (Ilibagiza).
    During this time of hiding, Mrs. Ilibagiza turned towards prayer and faith as outlets of hope for the future. She constantly prayed the rosary and even taught herself English (Ilibagiza). Eventually, a rebel Tutsi army began to overtake the Hutus, and Mrs. Ilbagiza was able to leave her bathroom prison. Nevertheless, her suffering continued as all but one of her immediate family members, a brother who was not in Rwanda at the time, was brutally murdered by the Hutus, often by the claws of a machete. Despite this horrific genocide, Mrs. Ilibagiza was able to persevere and turn a negative situation into a positive one. She obtained a job with the United Nations, married and immigrated to the United States, and even forgave her family’s murderers, in person (Ilibagiza).
    Mrs. Ilibagiza is an incredibly admirable person for countless reasons. Her trust in God during her ordeal is the ultimate example of faith, something that almost all people struggle with under less demanding circumstances. The mental and physical strength required to survive under such pressing conditions is a testament to Mrs. Ilibagiza’s determination. Her ability to forgive the very people who massacred her family and nearly destroyed her life is nearly equitable to that of Jesus Christ himself. Most importantly, Mrs. Ilibagrza took a horrible, inexplicable situation and has used it to make the world a better place. She continues to scale the globe and speak of the importance of faith and world peace. In addition, she has created the Left to Tell Charitable Fund (LTTCF). This charity provides orphans in Rwanda, including those directly affected by the 1994 genocide, with educational assistance (Ilibagiza). Thus, Mrs. Ilibagiza is using education to help improve people’s lives and to prevent another massacre like the one that tore apart her homeland.
    Today, it seems that priorities are often misplaced; however, the majority of human beings understand what it truly means to be brave and tough. And Immaculée Ilibagiza is the perfect example of both qualities. She starved in a cramped bathroom just to survive, built her faith and forgiveness, and now continues to improve the world. That is bravery, that is toughness, that is honor. And that is what it truly means to be a hero.

Work Cited

Ilibagiza, Immaculée. “About Immaculée .” Immaculée . 2010. Web. 7 Feb 2010.
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Joe Pilling's essay appears here with his express written permission and cannot be reproduced in any manner or fashion without his express written permission.