BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – In Sudan, thousands of Americans are still trying to get out of the country any way they can, with no signs that the fighting between rival military factions is going to end, despite another attempted cease-fire.
News 3 spoke to a Bluffton teacher who was visiting Sudan when the fighting broke out and managed to get to safety just in time.
“We would have died. We would have been killed. We would have been shot and killed. No doubt in my mind.”
Denise Bowers was a school teacher within the Beaufort County school system for 15 years before becoming an international teacher three years ago.
She was in the capital of Sudan teaching since last August. Bowers said that she and her husband knew the dangers but never thought it would escalate to what it became.
“Two weeks ago Saturday, we get a security alert from the school system saying do not leave your house…seek shelter,” said Bowers. “So of course, we were in a panic. We knew something was happening and we didn’t know what and we heard explosions. My husband saw them dropping missiles.”
While in lockdown, tragedy stuck a school in Sudan; an explosion went off while Bowers was on a staff Zoom call.
“One of the teachers turned on her microphone and she goes, ‘You guys, we think our building just got hit,’” Bowers recalled. “Something happened. We don’t know what’s going on. Being hopeless and able to help them was the worst feeling in the world.”
Shortly after, the Bowers and thousands of other Americans in Sudan learned that there would be no government–coordinated evacuation for the U.S. citizens.
“All the helicopters took the embassy personnel out and at that point of time, it was announced that they were done,” said Bowers. “If we were American citizens, you’re pretty much on your own and figure out a plan B.”
That plan consisted of just two backpacks as the couple took their chances and fled Sudan.
“This is day five of traveling and we’re not done yet,” said Bowers. “Just getting out of the capital took hours because we would go one route and then all the sudden, nope, can’t go that way. They won’t let us go. We would have to go another route.
“We had so many police checks. We heard gunfire at these police stops. They would come on screaming in Arabic and we don’t know what they are saying.”
Bowers credits the school board in Sudan for helping them escape safely – as the couple now makes their way back to the States. News 3 asked if this experience changed her view on her job, and surprisingly, it didn’t.
“So, I definitely would do this because I feel like there’s too much more of the world to explore. But I will definitely stick to safer countries.”
The Bowers are expected to be back in the Lowcountry by the end of the week.