My first bus bombing, Part III

Memorial to a victim of a previous attack on the same stretch of the Coastal Road south of Zichron Yaakov.

(You can read Part I here and Part II here.)

My patient loaded into the ambulance, I could take a deep breath. From the moment I started moving to the front of the bus until now I had been functioning on autopilot. I probably looked calm, in charge, competent, and I really was all those things. But there was a huge disconnect between me-functioning and me-terrified while I was busy giving first aid. As my hearing started to come back, so did my feelings. I noticed that I was trembling.

A fellah  from the village a few hundred meters off the road had taken it up on himself to gather all the luggage and personal effects from the storage bins under the bus and wherever else they had landed all into one area at the side of the road. He was an old man wearing a dingy galabiyeh and leaning on a heavy ancient wooden cane. He stood silently and shooed away the curious village boys who were looking speculatively at our stuff. He caught my eye for a long moment, slowly shook his head in sorrow, and looked away.

A young woman was sitting hunched over, crying, while a young man held her to his chest and whispered into her hair.

Another lady started laughing a little hysterically. This is the first bus I’ve been on since the last bus I was on was bombed. Do you understand? The first time I get on another bus, it’s bombed? What is this supposed to be? What is this?

A student started trying to hitch a ride. People told her to wait, the police were going to interview us and the company was sending another bus to take us to Jerusalem. Another bus? I don’t have time – I’ll be late. I’ll be late. I’ll be late, I don’t have time. And we all understood there was no point in trying to dissuade her. She flagged down a car and got in.

As it turned out, there was no second bomb on the bus and now the press swooped in. A little boy had been on the bus traveling alone. I remembered his grandmother putting him onto the bus and asking the driver to keep an eye on him until his mother picked him up at the station in Jerusalem. Now he was standing with a couple of the young soldiers, blinking away tears and trying to “be brave”.

A reporter came up to the child and shoved a microphone into his face while a photographer clicked away. Were you afraid, asked the reporter. Did you cry? Did you see all the blood? How did that feel? Were you afraid? Weren’t you sad that your mama wasn’t there with you? Did you cry? Are you afraid? Are you ever getting on a bus again? What did you think about the blood? Did you see that? Don’t you want to cry? What did you see?

I wanted to slap the woman and shove the microphone down her stupid throat. One of the soldiers looked over and saw the child under what I can only call attack. He strode over and carried the little boy off. Later on I heard him say, Crying is okay. Soldiers cry too. You’ll be a soldier like me some day. It’s okay to cry. I was scared, too.

Another photographer got off the bus talking about the great shot he got of a blood-filled shoe on top of a newspaper. That shoe was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes after the explosion and it is the image that has stayed with me the longest. I cannot think of that shoe filled with the red not-rain without tears pressing behind my eyes, even now while I’m typing this. What do you mean “great shot”, I thought to myself. Someone’s blood is filling up his shoe where his foot should be. What exactly is great about that?

Another bus was pulling up, and someone told us all to board it. Several of us – and I was one – crawled all over that bus, inside and out, checking for suspicious objects before we boarded. We were told that we would be taken to the nearby police station and then on to Jerusalem.

12 thoughts on “My first bus bombing, Part III

  1. I can only, at this moment, absorb this on a visual and, in a sense, technical sense.

    Is thanking you for writing this shallow? Is it equally shallow, or the equivalent of saying it’s a “great shot,” to tell you that you succeed in making this situation real for your readers?

    • Making it real for people is one of the big reasons for writing this, biblio. It is so easy to hear about something like this on the news, sigh, and move on. I wanted to concentrate on the people involved, on what we saw and felt and heard and looked like. I am glad that it seems to mean something to you, and your kind words are not shallow at all. Thank you for writing me!

  2. Pingback: My first bus bombing, Part II « Telling Knots

  3. Pingback: Trauma. Resilience. More questions than answers. « Telling Knots

    • Thank you for reading and commenting so kindly, purplesque. It is hard to hear these not-stories (thank you for the perfect word), but I really believe that it is in such narratives that we come to realize (to make real) what other people are living and experiencing every day. It is important to tell and hear them.

      Violence is not only political; it is personal. Real people live out its consequences and are forever changed.

  4. Having just read all three entries I am deeply moved – it has brought an human element to that which we ‘know’ happens on the other side of the world.
    May you know His peace supporting you as you continue to live in this difficult situation in your country.

    • I’m not brave! Everyone steps up to handle whatever they are faced with. I like what Bruno Bettleheim (I think) said: In extraordinary situations, ordinary people behave in extraordinary ways.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Pingback: My first bus bombing, Part II | Telling Knots

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