20 June 2017: The day I can’t forget

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“Jisr Al-Abyad” butcher shop, Syria

By Tala Alsakka-Amini

The morning sun trickled through the bent window screen. Soft rays made their way into our dark-lit bedroom, gently caressing my sister’s back as she breathed steadily. Quietness filled the room. After Fajr prayer, an unearthly sound reverberated around the city.

A missile slowly engulfs the morning.

My heart pounded like a skipping rope. I get up from my bed but my knees buckle. I held the corner of the bedside table to regain my balance. Mama walked in hurriedly to make sure we were okay.

She approached each one of us and stroked our heads as she hummed a prayer,

“In the Name of Allah with whose name there is shelter against all harm on earth or in the skies above, and he is the All-Hearing and All-Knowing.” My fear subsided.

Fear is a plague. Nothing spreads faster. It has the ability to slip into our minds and change us forever. For some it has an everlasting effect.

I thought I saw a white flash through the window. Like the strong chemical spark of lightning.

Turning white, then a murky yellow, dimming our world. The windows slammed with fury.

By the light of the crawling sun, I noticed that my sister’s face was damp with tears. I walk towards her as she lies unmoving.

“I’m scared,” she says.

I tell her not to worry as these missiles are dropping farther into the city of Damascus. The sounds of ambulance sirens created a cacophony that left me with a heavy heart. I tried to figure out where they might be coming from. I wondered how many casualties filled the empty streets, and how many souls clung to earth as they ascended. Mama placed herself near my bed as I asked her about what was going on outside. She informs me that it was just tit-for-tat. Then she reminds me that this war began because of standing up for our dignity. But the incessant retaliation from both ends created an unending whirlpool of violence and loss. My heart was still pounding rapidly. I held Mama’s soft palm and closed my eyes forcefully in the aim of lulling myself to sleep.

Another rocket ripped through the morning sky. The cement walls of our apartment shivered as they vibrated, mimicking the fright we were all feeling. I felt sick to my stomach. Extremely nauseous.

This is never going to end, I thought. I pressed my palms against my ears, in anticipation of another bomb dropping shortly after. And it did. At that moment I had so much spite for our government. How could he be so cruel I thought.

To know a man fully, supply him with power.

How will life continue? How will children play bountifully amidst the rubble? The more they understood the more they lost, their hearts still holding onto the hopes of a better life. Reminding me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “Little Prince” as he traveled from his asteroid home to the lonesome desert with nothing but a rose.

Three hours had passed. I gradually began to doze off. My eyelids were heavy as they ached for sleep. Shortly after, I felt a cold hand against the small of my back. My throat constricted, heart racing ever so quickly. It was my sister. She suggested that we take a walk in the hopes of relearning how to breathe again.

The grey wrought iron gate creaked as we pushed it. A warm breeze overtook us as we were welcomed by the familiar scent of burnt cigars. The streets were busy as always. I took comfort in the fact that life continued. Shortly after, we stopped adjacent to the “Jisr Al-Abyad” butcher shop that runs a vegetable market alongside it. A young man scrutinizes the lettuce and the wrinkled cucumbers.

For a second, I forgot there was a war. It felt as though our only disappointment was a rotten cucumber. This war might never end, but we will find a way to live.