Hurricane Irene, Bombs, and Baghdad
by Nisreen, 121Contact
I can’t help it. Waiting for the storm is the worst part. I want to face it. Now. I don’t want to keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I hate waiting.
It is serious, I know. And it could be worse than serious. And I don’t know why I am being…there is a laugh inside me, and a surprise. How people’s lives are so precious here and how people are so worried about the days they are going to live without electricity and water.
They’re going to shut the trains, the buses…People are talking here and there, and the News is filled with live details about the hurricane; Irene the call it. I am not afraid, and I am waiting for this Irene. I want to see if it is worth that much panic and attention in the waiting moments. Is it worth that anxiety? I am waiting and each moment and every detail from the TV draws a smile inside me and reminds me of Iraq.
I remember the hours before the bombardment of Iraq on March 20th, 2003. We are gathering food and water. We are storing tens of cans of food afraid of hunger and starvation. Batteries and torch lights are sold out in a few minutes. Candles and gasoline lamps are sold out before you can blink and people are hurrying back and forth from home to store; each time remembering another thing forgotten. Even medicine is being collected and stored.
We kept waiting and waiting. In our imaginations we kept seeing the bombing. Some of us were embarrassed to show fear, and some were really tense. I was one of them. I couldn’t sit. I was moving around from 2AM until 8PM my nerves were consumed. These are moments out of time. There is movement, but little thinking. Just waiting.
At two o’clock in the morning of March 20th, I think, my family gathered, all of us, in one house to share the panic together. And maybe to share death together. And we sit waiting in front of TVs and there is much talk and commenting. An announcer is talking about the impending invasion and my brothers suddenly have become experts. “If they come from the North then…If they come from the South…” etc. I think they are talking out of panic, and the bragging helps them feel calm. They won’t stop talking. Some of us want a quieter space and we go to listen to one of the six radios we just bought; of different sizes and colors, and different sizes of batteries now stored in the kitchen . Each room has a radio. The radio news is live reports of the strategies, the plans, the attacks…telling us moment by moment where the troops are…We now know the provinces have been bombed.
And all of a sudden we heard the sirens. The first sign was the electricity going down. So no more TV, and we ran to the radio which ran on batteries. And almost every channel was talking about the B52s that will arrive at the borders of Baghdad later that day, at 8 o’clock in the evening, and in a few seconds they will reach Baghdad, the Presidential Palace, and the most important locations in Baghdad.
Our phone calls never stopped. We were talking to aunts, cousins, uncles.
The aunties said, “Hide under the stairs. It is the most safe.”
The uncles advised us, “No. Go to the corners of the rooms, away from the windows. Put the dressers against the windows to stop the broken glass.”
At that moment I really hated the idea of waiting. You don’t know what is coming…it is really…not unhealthy, but…it affects your spirit, your soul, your brain. It’s really…I hate it.
OK. 7:45 and we are gathering in one room. Some jokes are told. My brothers and sisters talk politics for a while before we started worrying that the children would understand, so we had to tell more jokes and stories.
7:50 and we keep whispering, “The B52 will be here soon.”
:57, :58, 8 o’clock and the B52 is not here yet. We are so quiet, waiting to hear the sound of the first blast. The radio is talking, “The bombardment has started. The B52s have entered the borders. Some of the provinces are being attacked.”
We are still waiting. God knows what will happen when it comes. Then, all of a sudden, we hear, far away, shooting. And the shooting comes closer and closer. We hear some far away explosions, booms that are not very close. Then we start to feel the house shaking, and I hear it. The B52. I don’t know if it is really a B52 but that is in my mind. And I can hear the planes and feel the earth shake, and it keeps going as if they are flying around and bombing some targets.
And all of a sudden something fills my head with panic, with fear, with “what to do. It’s here.” I can’t sit still; my brother can’t sit still. The anti-aircraft artillery shooting is so loud. It is scarier than the planes. The children start asking, “What is this noise,” and then they start to cry. So we have to sing some songs and clap.
Some of us, like me and my brother, have to go out. We want to see what’s going on. Sitting in panic could kill you. And going out to see what’s going on could kill you too, but waiting in panic is unbearable.
We went into the street. My brother and I. My neighbor came out in his gray and blue pajamas and asked, “Are you celebrating? I heard clapping.”
“No,” we answered. “We were just quieting the children.”
“I feel sorry for them,” he said.
And we saw the thing we were waiting for; the thing we were bored of waiting for. We saw the blue, dark skies turn to red, orange and small yellow fragment here and there. The stars turned red.
I am smiling now to see how the people here are waiting for Irene.