Childhood Memories III
The Second Day of the Bombings
Our neighborhood was totally destroyed. All one could see were piles of stones. Streets were strewn with all kinds of debris, household articles and pieces of furniture, all completely wrecked. Terrified crowds were running in all directions looking for shelter. Now that so many houses had been destroyed, one could have a complete perspective of our small town with its church still standing in the center. After each "all clear", shelters would empty and the people would emerge completely drained mentally and physically.
In our town wars had ended after the Vandals. The Byzantines had rebuilt it, and with the passing of time it had become a beautiful and important center in the region. Was it going to be besieged once more? There was not much left to be saved. My imagination wandered and went back to the seventh century when it was in the hands of the Arabs who had converted its people to Islam with the power of the sword. Were we on the verge of being overtaken by the Germans and maybe having to learn their language instead of our French language?
To the extensive Roman ruins, of which we were so proud, were added the newly created ruins of so many houses. Dust from destroyed buildings was hanging heavily in the air. A smell of burnt blood rose up in the clear sky as if to show the world the horror of what we were going through.
Death did not scare us anymore but physical pain was haunting us. The suffering of the wounded people was extremely hard to endure. None of us knew what death meant. It may seem easy to watch other people's death; we weep for the loss of others but actually we weep in anticipation of our own death. It is difficult to understand enigmas, and death is one of them. Church bells no longer tolled for the dead but chimed for those still alive.
We had the whole night in front of us. Never had I realized that the night was such a friend and the darkness no longer frightened me. Dead bodies were indistinguishable in the ruins. We had been told so many tales about the dead, which scared us. And there they were, lying still, no longer inducing fear in me. Fear, I believe, is induced by the behavior of the living. They obey orders blindly and often act against their own heart and mind while serving causes they do not espouse. They are ordered by cruel superiors whose ambition stifles human feeling.
Around the town square, ruined houses had been converted into cemeteries. I could not see the point of killing so many defenseless people and destroying so many houses. Those planes with their bombs were destroying our paradise, our soccer game and scattered our team and our friends everywhere in the world.