(Taken from The Lost I, Chapter 19)
The basement- turned- shelter was full of people. There were chairs, rugs and mats spread on the floor for everyone to sit on. Hayat went to a corner and kneeled on a rug, Elie next to her, while Samer and Nayla each grabbed a chair and sat down. It was damp and cold. She should have got her coat, but it was too late now, Nayla thought, for the shells started to rain on them, falling at the rate of one every two minutes. They exploded with an ear-rending loudness. A burst of cries and shouts followed mainly from the women and children. Outside, the sirens could be heard wailing from time to time. She looked at her watch. It wasn’t even six o’clock yet and the bombing had started. Usually the bombardment would start at around midnight and go on till dawn. But today they had started early and this time it was different to any other time. It was cold. She shivered and folded her hands over her stomach. Samer’s left shoulder was touching hers. He reached out and held her arm. She looked at him, he smiled and placing his mouth next to her ears he whispered, “God knows it’s scary, Nayla. Together we’ll make it through the night, won’t we darling? You are brave, I know it.”
She smiled back at him and nodded. She would be brave. Even if she wasn’t, what else could she do? She knew as well as he, or the others who were here with them that it wouldn’t take much for all of them to be dead. One bomb exploding in their parking lot was enough for all of them to die. Their basement was not protected. Samer had explained that to her the first time they had to come there. A third of the place was under their building while the rest fell under the open space where the cars of the tenants were parked. Under that open space, in one corner, was a room with a huge tank filled with fuel for the heaters in the apartments. Even a fire in the neighboring building could cause the tank to explode, turning everyone into human torches. If a car was hit and caught fire, then it would spread easily to all the rest. There was only one stairway leading outside to the parking lot, only one. Within a very short period of time they would all suffocate and no one would be able to save them, let alone come near them because of the intensity of the falling bombs in their neighborhood. What was the point of screaming, she thought, it wouldn’t stop one moving, closer to their end.
I remember that night and the many nights like that night I had to spend with my husband cowering on the ground in the basement of our building. Even though it was so many years ago I still remember how it felt, how cold it was, how frightened I was. I remember every sound, every single person in the basement with us, what they said and what they did, what sound they made, how and when they cried.
I feel as if I’ve had my share of disturbances and wars, and now it is the turn of the Libyans, the Yemenis, the Bahrainis, the Iraqis, the Egyptians, the Tunisians, the People of the Ivory Coast to name only a few. All these people are subjected to more or less the same horrific situation. A situation that is created and controlled by men. Perhaps their problems could be resolved before more lives are lost, before more people die. There is always hope for a way out for all of them.
However, I am saddened and enraged when I think of the people of Sendai in Japan, who had to fight the fiercest enemy of all times, nature. I shudder when I think of their last moments on this earth. The uproar of the ocean, what it must have felt like, the cold water, the sudden darkness that engulfed them. A mother trying to hold on to her child but couldn’t. The separation, the agony, the pain, the terror. How could they have fought something so humongous, so fierce, so ghastly, so cruel?
How can the ordinary beat the extraordinary?