They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky

by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, & Benjamin Alak, with Judy Bernstein

“I was fast: that was my gift. If I did something bad, I would run. If something bad happened to me, I would run too. That night all the turmoil broke out, I ran, like my mother had told me….”

Five-year-old Benjamin stood in the field, tending the goats, when the raiders arrived. Moments later, as gunshots, flames, and screams engulfed his village, Benjamin found himself running, as fast as his legs could carry him. In a nearby village, his cousins, seven-year-old Alephonsion and Benson, were driven from their homes as well. Every step led the boys away from their peaceful traditional world where spear-toting fathers protected their huts from the lions that roamed by night. With each footstep they were drawn deeper into the horrific violence of Sudan’s civil war: a world of bombed-out villages, mine-sown roads, and relentless desert, a world where starving adults would snatch the grain from a weak child’s fingers.

Across Sudan, between 1987 and 1989, tens of thousands of young boys took flight from these massacres. They became known as the Lost Boys. With little more than the clothes on the back, sometimes not even that, they streamed out over Sudan in search of refuge. Their journey led them first to Ethiopia and then, driven back into Sudan, toward Kenya. They walked nearly one thousand miles, sustained only by the sheer will to live.

They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky is the three boys’ account out of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and the purity of their child’s-eye-vision, Alephonsion, Benjamin, and Benson recall by turns how they endured hunger and strength-sapping illnesses — dysentery, river blindness, and yellow fever. How they dodged the life-threatening predators – lions, snakes, crocodiles and soldiers alike – that dogged their footsteps. How they grappled with a war that threatened continually to overwhelm them.

But as well, however, their story shares glimpses of the tiny joys that kept them going: the dear friends they made – and sometimes lost – along the way, the joy of finding one another after they had been separated, and rare moments of a stranger’s kindness, comfort, and respite. It celebrates the tenacity, ingenuity, and raw spirit by which three small boys survived and, to some degree, came to terms with the chaos, greed, and immeasurable sorrow of the adult world they encountered. They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky it is a lyrical, captivating portrait of a childhood hurled into wartime and how three very young boys had the good fortune and belief in themselves to survive.

Over 150,000 copies sold.