FROM READERS: A reflection of war

Monday, May 7, 2012 | 9:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:57 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 7, 2012
Monir Shababi with her daughters Shay Habibi, right, and Linda Habibi. The photo was taken on the day of Linda's graduation from MU in May 2011.

Monir Shababi is a research assistant professor at the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. She's passionate about writing and decided to do some writing about different subjects.

The word of “WAR” reminds me of the most shocking yet luckiest day of my life. Twenty-five years ago, my infant daughter, my mother, and I survived a horrifying bombing. It was shocking to see our lives flash before us, and lucky because we dodged the bombs with no injuries. Our survival was the result of a series of small and very random events that saved us from the Iraqi bombs.  On a sunny day in January 1987, the Iran-Iraq war was in its sixth year. For the entire six years, Iraqi jet fighters had entered the air space of our hometown and left without attacking. In the beginning of the war, we took shelter but after a few times when nothing happened, no one took these planes seriously. Instead of taking shelter, people stood on the rooftops or outside in their yard to watch the planes fly by. That day, when our hometown was bombarded for the first time after six years of war, we had the utmost mortality rate because people in the street were watching the planes as if they were watching an exciting movie.

It was 10 a.m. and I was sitting on the couch in the family room holding my four-month-old daughter in my arms, rocking her to sleep. Luckily, she was too cheerful to fall asleep. If she had fallen asleep, I would have placed her in her crib where later I found a piece of rocket in the middle of the burned mattress. While struggling to make her sleep, the door bell rang. I took my baby and went to open the door with our automatic door opener. I picked up the handset and talked to my mother who was running some errands. Our door opener was defective and usually did not function. More often, I had to go to the front yard and open the door manually. That day, however, the door opened with one touch and saved me from going to the yard. My mother came in and we stood at the entrance and talked for a few seconds. The entrance door was a huge wooden door that opened up to our family room. At that moment, we heard the sirens and then my mother said “your Dad was telling me to take the sirens seriously because they may attack. Let’s go somewhere safe.”

I did not question her and even though I was sure nothing would happen, I obeyed. We moved a few steps toward the dining room and stood by the wall that separated the dining room from the kitchen. By our amazing luck, that part of the house was the safest place, because the wall protected us from the windows of the kitchen and we were so far away from the windows of the living room. At the exact moment that we moved to the safe spot, everything happened. The sound of the jet fighters which were getting closer was like the sound of a horrible thunderstorm and then we heard the most awful sound of an explosion that rocked the whole house. The windows shattered as my baby let out a horrific scream. I was stunned but I could not help looking through the window of the kitchen. That sunny sky had turned to a black sky filled with dark smoke in a matter of seconds. It took at least a few minutes for the smoke to clear. We were all in shock. My daughter kept crying uncontrollably as I repeated “they finally attacked.”

A few minutes later when we heard the screaming from outside, we felt the impact of what had really happened and then took shelter under the dining room table. We sat there until the revolutionary guard came to our house to collect the bodies or the injured. Fortunately for us, there was none. The rocket had hit our neighbor’s yard whose house was only a few yards from ours. The door in our front yard was now a huge metal ball and lay in the middle of the yard. The wooden door, which we stood in front of it a few seconds before the attack, was detached by the wave of explosion and placed in the middle of the family room.

Exactly five random events occurred that did not seem important at the time but we are alive today because they happened in a certain order. First: my daughter did not sleep; otherwise I would not have had a chance to get her out of her bed in time. Second: my mother arrived exactly at the right moment. Third: the door opener functioned properly. Fourth: my mother knew we should take the sirens seriously. And fifth: we were incredibly close to the safest spot in the house.

Unfortunately, not everyone was as fortunate as we were and so many people were injured or died that day, including our neighbors. A mother and her two-year-old son died while her husband had gone to buy milk. A middle-aged man died in the yard watching the planes when a piece of bomb hit his head. An 18 year-old girl lost her eyes because she had come out of their basement to answer the phone and the phone was by the window. Pieces of shattered glass hit her eyes while she was speaking with her worried father. I am not claiming that a miracle saved us because that would mean our life was more precious than others and that God wanted us to survive. However, I believe there is a power beyond our perception that determines when and how we leave this world.

The war reminds us how cruel human beings can be and the collateral damages, which are mostly the life of innocent people, mean nothing in the big picture. The people who are constantly beating the war drums for their own personal gain have never been in real life war situations to realize how dreadful a war can be, even more dreadful for the survivors. I can still remember the painful scream and heartbreaking cry of the husband who came home with the milk in his hand and found the remains of his wife and two-year-old son in the ruins of his house. For him, that day began as a normal day and ended with a horrendous tragedy that aged him twenty years in only two days.

If my husband and father had witnessed that scene, they would certainly go insane. My war story may not even come close to the stories of the veterans and their families who experience the war first hand and endure tremendous physical and emotional injuries. I truly believe the people who witness the terrible consequences of war wish that it had never have happened. It’s up to us who have experienced the brutality of war to open other people’s eyes to let them see no one in their right mind can wish this horrible ending for any family. Therefore, for the sake of humanity, let’s disarm all the weapons in the world and speak up before war takes any more lives. We can certainly save innocent lives if we take a united front and speak against the war and the people who initiate them.  

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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