Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bad Memories

Riverbend has a post marking the second anniversary of the war's beginning:

The sky was lit with flashes of red and white and the ground rocked with explosions on March 21, 2003. The bombing had actually begun on the dawn of the 20th of March, but it got really heavy on the 21st. I remember being caught upstairs when the heavier bombing first began. I was struggling to drag down a heavy cotton mattress from my room for an aunt who was spending a couple of weeks with us and I suddenly heard a faraway ‘whiiiiiiiiiiiiiz’ that sounded like it might be getting closer...

The faces in the safe room were white with tension. My cousin’s wife sat in the corner, a daughter on either side, her arms around their shoulders, murmuring prayers softly. My cousin was pacing in front of the safe room door, looking grim and my father was trying to find a decent radio station on the small AM/FM radio he carried around wherever he went. My aunt was hyperventilating at this point and my mother sat next to her, trying to distract her with the voice of the guy on the radio talking about the rain of bombs on Baghdad.

A seemingly endless 40 minutes later, there was a slight lull in the bombing- it seemed to have gotten further away. I took advantage of the relative calm and went to find the telephone. The house was cold because the windows were open to keep them from shattering. I reached for the telephone, fully expecting to find it dead but I was amazed to find a dial tone. I began dialing numbers- friends and relatives. We contacted an aunt and an uncle in other parts of Baghdad and the voices on the other end were shaky and wary. “Are you OK? Is everyone OK?” Was all I could ask on the phone. They were ok… but the bombing was heavy all over Baghdad. Shock and awe had begun.

Two years ago this week.

What followed was almost a month of heavy bombing. That chaotic night became the intro to endless chaotic days and long, sleepless nights. You get to a point during extended air-raids where you lose track of the days. You lose track of time. The week stops being Friday, Saturday, Sunday, etc. The days stop being about hours. You begin to measure time with the number of bombs that fell, the number of minutes the terror lasted and the number of times you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of gunfire and explosions.

We try to put it out of our heads, but it comes back anyway. We sit around sometimes, when there’s no electricity, or when we’re gathered for lunch or dinner and someone will say, “Remember two years ago when…” Remember when they bombed Mansur, a residential area… When they started burning the cars in the streets with Apaches… When they hit the airport with that bomb that lit up half of the city… When the American tanks started rolling into Baghdad…?

Remember when the fear was still fresh- and the terror was relatively new- and it was possible to be shocked and awed in Iraq?

With the exception of the families of soldiers (or contractors) killed or wounded, most folks in the US probably consider the war in Iraq little more than an inconvenience--the occasional source of bad news. Imagine how it feels for those who are caught up in the day to day unreality of utter chaos. Ouch.

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