This long post stitches together emails and phone calls between Nesreen and me that took place over the last few days. These are harsh days in Nesreen’s neighborhood with death, the sounds of dying, and gunshots becoming part of the daily routine.
b- Hello from Brooklyn!
n- Hello, Bruce. How are you?
b- I am fine, dear. I’ve been trying to call since I got your last email but this is the first I could get through.
n- I tried also, but the connection is so bad…well how are
b- OK. Did you get the DVDs I sent along with our good wishes?
n- Thanks for your support and your good wishes but I did not have enough time to let my students see these DVDs because we were at Eid days and we stayed at our homes with no connection with each other and the reason you already know- THE ELECTRICITY!!
Now that Eid is over I will try to get to school …so there might be students in the institute, I wish and I will tell them about the DVDs. You know school is so strange now. There are no students. Maybe 4 or 5 and they have no books. I go anyway and we just talk and I try to keep them interested in learning.
b- You are so brave.
n- Yesterday I cried almost all day. And I don’t know why. You know there’s nothing else to do. I don’t know what to do so there is such sadness. Oh, can you hear the shooting?
b- Yes. Tell me about yesterday. What happened?
n- Coming home from school I was trying to enter the garden and a man with a machine gun was putting on a face mask and shooting at a car with policemen, Iraqi National Guard. And two were killed; Achmed and Hussein, and the 3rd was shot under the knee and the 4th was shot over the knee and the 5th was shot in the chest but he is OK and was just a lot of bleeding.
My brother came to take them into the house. I was almost killed. Shots hit the fence just 2 centimeters from my face. The police begged my brother to stay at home for a short time till the shooting gets over......I am still confused and nervous...I do not know how if I am saying this in a correct way...I want to tell you the details...oh my God things got mad here! The soldiers were crying and yelling so hard.
My brother’s shirt was all covered in blood. The children were so frightened. They were eating lunch in the garden when the outside door was hit with bullets.
b- Oh, Nesreen. I am so sorry. I am so glad you and your brother and the children were not hurt. Where are the children now?
n- They are in the house. They are fine. And the other day, Tania was here in Eid and I read your massages (which I have saved in my computer) to her …guess what?...she cried for you and she said I am sad because Uncle Bruce feels lonely! She sends you her regards and we have a photo to send but the connection is too bad now. You will have to wait. It was raining in Baghdad in the days of Eid and she insisted to have this photo in our garden telling you thanks for everything and she never forgets both of you (you and the star).
While they were here they couldn't go back home because a serious combat took place on the highway and 2 American vehicles were shot, eventually the coalition troops were spread all over the place for 2 days looking for the insurgents. Tania was afraid a little bit, she did not see such fighting in my neighborhood before.
Oh, can you hear that?
b- Yes. Is it gunfire?
n- Yes. They are shooting in the street. Now.
b- Where are you?
n- In the garden.
b- Get in the house!
n- It is OK. I am moving to a better place, just behind the door.
b- I wish you could be safe here behind my door.
n- I am not Casper, you know. I cannot just fly there. My friend in Amman told me to come to her, but I cannot. My family is here. The school is here. My life is here. I cannot just leave.
You know, now when I go out I look to see who is strangers and who is neighbors. There are a lot more strangers now; insurgents. And we do not know who they are or why they are shooting and when there is fighting so innocent people are hit. There are many children in this neighborhood.
Can you hear that?
b- It sounds like shooting and a low noise…
n- Yes, shooting and a plane I think.
b- It sounds so close.
n- Yes. It is here. There are 3 checkpoints here, of Iraqi soldiers. They mostly do nothing. When there is shooting they mostly hide. And then they call the American troops. The Americans shoot very hard. Shoot very…strong. No mercy. Everyone hides then.
b- I here the first beep. The call will end soon. Please remember how much I love you and that we all think of you.
n- And I love you too. Here comes my brother. He will tell what the shooting is about.
b- Where are his children?
n- I told you. In the house. Here he is. (‘I am talking with Bruce’). He wants to say hello to you.
b- Salaam, my brother.
X- Hello, Mr. Bruce.
b- I am glad you are safe.
X- glad you are safe
n- He can understand you but he cannot put the words together to answer. I hear that beep.
And the call is terminated…..