The difference between life and death was the time it took to go down three floors: 35 seconds.
Just finished Eftar. We haven’t had electricity for over 26 hours. Our UPS battery that we use to charge our phones and to power the WiFi has ran out. The one in my brother K’s apartment upstairs still hasn’t, so we decide to go up there for a bit to check the news, Facebook and most importantly WhatsApp friends and family.
We go upstairs. K’s apartment is on the 3rd floor; the wind is so much nicer up there, especially after going a day with no AC. We sit next to each other on the couch and get updated with the news online.
We’ve been up here for about an hour; it’s time to go downstairs to the parents. I tell my brother, “Just a minute, I wanna WhatsApp my friends and tell them I won’t have WiFi so they don’t worry”.
He says, “Yalla, hurry up there’s not much left in the UPS” and starts giving me a countdown to rush me. I start laughing and tell him, “Okay okay, fine. Yalla, let’s go downstairs.”
35 seconds pass.
We enter the house downstairs. Dad is praying 3esha and mom is sitting on the couch with a fan trying to beat the heat. They have a flashlight on for lighting.
Mom says, “Wainkom, shta2nalkom wallah” (Where have you been, we really missed you). My sister-in-law heads to the kitchen to grab something and K and I are just about to sit down.
The darkness around us lights up bright orange and yellow. Like fireworks.
Windows shatter immediately. They sound like glass rain falling.
We jump. We start running, but we don’t even realise it. You just suddenly find yourself meters away from where you remember you were last standing. Then we realise, that could have just been the first “warning” missile.
Never knew that when the bombing is extremely close, you don’t hear it coming. You don’t hear the F16 flying close and you don’t hear the sound of the missile actually coming down like you do when it’s a few blocks away. You just hear the impact.
We grab whatever we have in arm’s reach and head to anywhere safer. To the basement. Thank God for the basement. And we wait.
Wait for what? Wait for the next missile to drop down to completely destroy whatever it hit in the first place? Wait for the sound of ambulances? Wait for the sound of airplanes to become distant so we know it’s safe to go back up home…
Our neighbors come to our basement for safety. There are almost 20 of us. We wait for over an hour in the basement. We have a radio, flashlights, water, essentials. No second missile is fired.
We heard on the radio that it was our neighbour’s house right across the street that was targeted. How long do we wait? I realise my phone is still upstairs in K’s place. It’s scary to go get it but it’s necessary for emergencies.
After debating for 30 minutes, K and his wife go upstairs to their apartment to get my phone and to check on their windows. One minute passes. I hear my sister-in-law’s footsteps running frantically downstairs. Something’s wrong.
She throws open the door. She’s holding something in her hand. It’s completely covered in dust and ashes, all white. I barely even recognise that it’s my phone she’s holding.
She’s screaming, “It was our house that was hit! It’s destroyed. We have to leave!”
All I can think of is that I was sitting right next to my phone. It’s 2 am now. How do we even leave at this hour?
Grab clothes. Grab passports. Grab money. Grab anything.
Our neighbor calls an ambulance to come get us. That’s the only safe way to move. They come quickly and carry out my 90-something-year-old grandmother. They tell us to turn off our phones. The neighbors and all of us cram into the ambulance.
It’s surreal. We can’t believe what’s happening.
Each of us goes to family members’ places. But are we even safe there? What could have been safer than Canadian/Palestinians sitting at home with no electricity watching the news on an iPad?
We don’t sleep. We try to remind ourselves how lucky we are to be alive. We replay every second of the past few hours.
If this isn’t terrorism, I don’t know what is.
WE SAID THIS: Our hearts go out to all the victims of Israel’s current siege on Gaza.