What It Would Be Like To Be An American Refugee

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Warsan Shire

My name is Thomas Keegan.


Oh, right, yes, T-H-Oyeah, thats right. Richard. Keegan. K-E-E-G-A Im sorrywhat else do you need me tostate?

Oh, right uh. Okay. Thomas Richard Keegan, born August 2nd 1985 in Newark, DE.

Current place of residence: Houstonwell, I mean its no longer ourour home. It was an apartment building. I couldnt tell you how many…occupants. Im sorry, Im just so tired.

Were coming from Texas. Houston, Texas.

There are three of us. My wife, my son, and me.

We, uhwe walked. Our car wasand theres no gas anywhere, and the roads areyeahyes, we walked.

The whole way, yes. Itsabout 2,000 miles. Hes 17uh, well 18 now, I guess, 18 months. My wife and I took turns carrying him. God has watched after us.

Im very tired, yes. We are very tired and in a great deal of pain. My wifes feether blisters have blisters. They are raw. And I am worried about my son. Hes not growing. Hehes too thin. Mexico was much closer, of course, but its dangerous there. Theres a lot of violence and its poor. Canada felt like our only real hopea place where we could make a life for ourselves.

My wife is an artistpainter and a sculptor. Im a reportersports. Grew up playing baseball, coaches and scouts said I had a shot to play in the bigs til I broke my leg senior year of high school. Decided writing about it was the best way to stay close to the game. Anyway, we thought our son would be safe here. I just want him to be safe. Were trying to stay alive, here, you know?

I guess you guys just have Blue Jays, now that the Expos are gone, right? How far is Toronto from here?

Oh. That far. Really? Wow, I didntsorry, Im actually not very familiar with the geography of Canada.


Do you like baseball?

So you justwant me to tell you about how we got here? Like since we left or?

The whole thing? From the beginning? Thats going to take a whiletheres a lot


Well, okay, soin March of 2011, a group of teenagers in Dallasyou may have heard about thisthey spraypainted some slogans on one of the walls at their school. See, they were protesting the repeal of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, arguing that the repeal would free up certain lawmakers to repress the minority votes through voter ID laws. Now, spraypainting might not have been the most articulate form of protestobviously its vandalism, but I mean, come on, theyre teenagers, right? Anyway, uh

These kids were out there protesting, you know, yelling and carrying signspeaceful. They were peaceful. The police were called. But it wasnt police like you think of police. These guys areI mean they look like commandos, you know? They all looked like they were on the SWAT team. Like something out of one of those shooter games. And they fired teargas at these people, these kids. Well, I guess the word got out because before you knew it, there were thousands of people gathered in the area around this school.

The how and the why and the what-happened-when of itit all gets a little hazy. But basically, the national guard shows up, and theyThey open fire. I meanIm sorry

It wasIve never seen anything like it. Not sinceI mean, Kent State I guess, but this was…these soldiersAmerican flags on their shoulders and theyjust

They killed 3 young men. Hundreds more were hurt in the fighting, but they killed three kids outside their school and that wasjustit. The streets were flooded. People armed themselvescivilians, I meanthey had to. The military was swooping in. There were helicopters, and tankstanks driving down residential streets!

We tried to stay out of it. Its not a winnable battle. I mean, its the United States military. The greatest fighting force the world has ever seen, right? How do you pick up a hand gun or a hunting rifle and go out to shoot at tanks?

But people did. Our neighbors, our friends, our famyes. Our. Oh! Im sorry

Our family. Matthew and Luke. My two younger brothers. They fought. They didntthey didnttheyre not

It’s 2013, and we were engaged in a second civil war, but this wasnt like the first war. This was a country against its government. The best trained, best equipped military in the worldbeing supplied by international alliesand fighting against civilians. My youngest brother, Luke, was a dentist! He was killed in a battle with Navy SEALS, in Baltimore.

No part of the country was stable. There was no haven. Its just chaos down there. Violent gangs took over entire cities, cause theres no police or military to protect civilians. Women are being raped. Children are and they have chemical weapons. They say they dont, but theyre releasing gas. I know. I know so much I wish I didnt.

My wife is an identical twin. She always swore to me that she and her sister could kind of communicate through dreams. I used to roll my eyes at her. For months, my wife has been having the same nightmareof watching her sisterthrown from a roof by a group of men in camouflage. The men are laughing. For months, my wife has known, without , that her twin sister is dead.

But I know. The week before we left, a colleague sent me a link. He warned me, but said he thought we deserved to know. They filmed it. YouTube. I havent been able to tell my wife.

We stayed as long as we could. But theythe protestors, the rebelsthey started holding up in cities, in populated areas. I guess they thought theyd be harder to weed out. There were airstrikes. And mortars. The army shelled apartment buildings. American tanks. They were firing on anything. On everything. Carpet bombing.

In April, our building was struck. They blew a hole in the side of our apartment building.So many people died. Our neighbors. Our friends. The son of our neighbor across the hall was with his babysitter on the top floor of the building. He didnt He was 6.

Im sorry, but is that enough?

Im very tired.

Ill answer anything.

Im sorry, my French is notDo I know whoDylan Roof? Who is

Christianwait, wait, wait a minutewasnt he the guy who killed those people in their church?

Do Iwhat? Do I him? No, no, I meanhe was fromSouthCarolina, I think. I have no idea

A Christianwhoa, no, no, noyou dontuhokay, look, he himself a Christian, but thats not what welisten, please sir, you have to understand, that washe was an extremist. Thats not us. Were not likehe was, people like him are a miniscule percentage of our population. Theyre nothing. Theyre not us. Theyve justhijackedno, listen, they hijack our faith

and they are a greater enemy to me than they are to you. They desecrate the name of my God.


You have to understand. Thats not us. You must understand.

Please. We have nowhere to go.

We will die. My son, the last child of my familys name, will die. My wife is sick. She needs help. We have no money. We have no food. We have no home. You are all we have.



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