TWO water (truck) bombs are QUITE enough, thank you very much! 11-18-05
Four of us were down having breakfast in the dining room, when suddenly, (no blast ever happens slowly I guess), a HUGE BOOM!!!! Please believe me when I say H-U-G-E!!! At first I thought we’d been rocketed (again) and then a second (closer) BIGGER one hit. The room was awash in pressure and thunderous reverberation. I guessed we were being targeted by mortars or rockets and that the next one might be, you should excuse the _expression, dead on.
Turns out the it was the Al-Hamrah hotel that got it. That’s where the International journalists from the LAST huge bombing have been staying, the explosion that I'd seen (the week before) from a distance and, from the size of it, took to be an ammo bunker hit).
This can’t be good PR for the bad guys. I mean, what are they THINKING, hitting journalists? I mean, aren’t journalists ON their side????? Don’t the bad guys READ the Western papers????)
As one, we four dove under the heavy trestle table, (I now know what everyone’s back sides look like), pulling the chairs onto their sides, putting the backs to use in fort mode, we could hear shards of glass going everywhere. I guess that’s what shards do, ‘go everywhere’. Dust filled the room. That’s not really fair to dust… it fills every room, this was just an unusual amount. We could SEE it and it was moving….sideways.
Got all over my cereal too, darn it, and THIS was the first morning we’d had Kellogg’s Fruit and Flakes and I wasn’t FINISHED with mine, either! It had bananas on it and REAL cream.
The glass murals behind our table had been sucked out their frames. We had dived, (had diven?), so instantly under the table that none of us even realized that the wall was missing until we came back down for lunch. One recovers quickly here.
In crouch position, my sandals had come off and I grabbed the phone, calling my daughter to tell her, (since I didn’t know what was going on or how it would turn out), that ‘they’re shooting at us!!’ ‘Shooting’ is a very generic term around here. She and I haven’t exactly been corresponding on a regular basis and I had NO intention of being blasted to smithereens and leaving her to live with the (whatever) feelings she’d have of not having been conversant with Mom of late. That would have been really awful. Amazing how focused a parent can be in ANY situation.
The PSDs, (talk about guys willing to die to protect us!), thundered in en masse, grabbed us by shirts and arms and rushed us OUT of the dining room, through the shattered glass strewn lobby. (Really, it does look SO much better now that the windows are out and there’s AIR and SUNLIGHT in there!) Not QUITE so Kafka-esque, though I still think they could use more plants, especially since some appeared to have gotten broken in the debacle. (Women notice these things.)
Seeing the glass littered floor, Dan scooped barefooted me up, (telling me later that ‘losing 5 pounds wouldn’t be the worst idea), and sprinted across the scattered glass debris. I had my sandals in one hand and the phone in another, talking to my daughter all the way. (You know how mommys can be.)
She kept asking me “what’s HAPPENING!?!?!”, and it’s really hard to give a blow by blow whilst running barefooted, (I was on my own feet now), and up flights of marble stairs. Dan took the phone and told her he’d call her back later, (he did).
We were closeted in an inside safe room, (the safe room has a PROPANE tank in it??? Just whose idea was THIS???), whilst the PSDs checked things out. I was VERY relieved to see that 3 of our guys, (whom, on my way to breakfast, I’d seen OUT side on the street), were amongst those now corralling us to safety.
Machine gunfire could be heard everywhere. The hotel guards, other hotel guards, (and who knows who else), were shooting at whatever they were shooting at. Later our head PSD told us that no one had gotten shot, (because, frankly, Iraqis just point those things and shoot… but they don’t know HOW to shoot). The bad news is that there were casualties in the other hotel and, no doubt, dozens in the apartments across the street where Iraqi families live.
Six are confirmed dead, 40 wounded, and how many scores more will be added to that horrid list, I do not know. The bakery is evidently gone now too. The incredible GOOD news is that the baker and his wife and their helper hadn't, yet, arrived at the bakery ... and so were spared a horrible death. The families in the apartments across the street weren't all so lucky.
I’ve heard ‘Fate/Destiny’ more times today than you’d believe. I still can’t figure how why good people die and what God’s part in this is. I do get the feeling that my work, (whatever that may be), in this world isn’t finished.
You DO need to know one thing for dead sure. If we don’t prevail against this evil HERE, this is coming home, THERE. Count on it.
The Military has come, finished all their forensic work, (device type, vehicle(s), origination, chemical makeup, etc.), and Blackhawks are coming in for major rescue efforts. Two just went past, dropping what I took to be flares. The far side of the Al-Hamrah is a crater and Army rescue is in full swing.
Some of the offices and rooms are a mess. The window next to my desk was blown in, as were the windows in Dan’s and Ken’s offices. (Welcome to Baghdad, Ken!) Safety glass prevented serious damage on those windows that HAD safety glass, (those panes just newly replaced from the last VBIED [Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device] blasts last month). Glaziers must make a fortune here!
I swear, around here it’s ALWAYS one durned thing or another! I still don’t miss the helicopter overflights where we lived in those trailers, (the ones that flew so low they could have shaken the fleas off the cats), though. Rockets and mortars seem so TAME now.
I’d never felt real blast force before. That certainly answered the ‘what’s a car/truck bomb feel like?’ question. (It’s certainly quite notably impressive and has the added dimension of one's body feeling 'squeezed' as if by a gloved hand.) We were probably 200-250 feet from it too AND on the other side of the hotel that got the brunt of the impact. I cannot imagine how the human body can sustain that kind of traumatic force. The internal damage to those affected must be horrendous. Ruptured ear drums would be the least of their problems.
The patio door in my dressing room was demolished, scattering cement chunks and debris everywhere, its newly installed door lock bent and jammed by the force of the blast. Oh well, the floor needed vacuuming anyway. (You should SEE what passes for a ‘Hoover’ here… it’s some sort of shiny giant monster of a drum fitted with arms that would make an octopus lustful.)
Guys with machine guns (of course), what’s the DEAL with that anyway?, keep coming in and out asking about the glass. Two came in and, with hammers, broke out the shattered remnants. They weren’t able to get the patio door un jammed though. (I WAS rather hoping they’d machine gun THAT just so I could see one of those work). No more mornings out there for awhile. This morning, for instance, wouldn’t have been good ‘out there’ morning.
I have now been told that the machine gun guys are courtesy of the hotel owner to keep an eye on the guys doing the glazing work. Not so that things wouldn’t get stolen, but to, (are you ready for this?), be SURE nothing gets brought IN, (if you get my drift). C4 and window putty are somewhat similar in appearance though not in use. It’s amazing what one learns to say, “oh, of course”, to.
Remember I told you that Iraq was JUST a bit different than home? (And aren’t you glad HOME isn’t like this?)
After going about and surveying the blast damage in the various rooms, I realized, having kind of been IN a for-real bombing now, something about why intensely concussive forces are so horribly dangerous. For instance, on the INSIDE of my dressing room wall, all the window putty and other debris is strewn about the floor, but on the OUTSIDE, (where the patio is), lies almost all the glass work. I checked all the other rooms too, outside the hotel as well. (From the inside, they won’t let us out or up, onto the roof yet). The blast force comes AT something and then, because a vacuum has been created BY the blast, (of explosive things moving so very fast), things are then sucked back the other way with almost equal force. THAT’S why bombs are so doubly dangerous. You can get cut bi directionally because of the physics of the situation. Nasty business that!
In case you wondered, yes, I took pictures… LOTS of them! I R not stupid you know ; ) Don’t want to let a perfectly good photo opportunity go to waste. Besides, I don’t want anyone to think I am exaggerating!
In gratitude for no one (here) being injured, the hotel owner just sacrificed 2 sheep on the street outside the building. Good things mean bad tidings for sheep around here. You can skip those photos if you want to.
Fortunately the weather is quite pleasant now… open portals like this would be most unfortunate were we in the furnace blast of July or August or during a dust storm or when it’s freezing. We’re a bit more open to the world than is useful just now, though the calls to Prayer can be heard more clearly, so that’s not a bad thing.
Life goes on… I can see people down on the street walking as if nothing at all had happened. A donkey trotting in front of its cart just went by. There goes a wedding procession. No stopping and shooting and dancing though. There are red flowers on the hood of the bridal car.
There have been two or three ‘controlled detonations’ since this morning, (that means the bomb dogs found leftovers), but I don’t know what they were and probably won’t be able to go out and about before tomorrow to see what really happened. Just little ‘ol me in body armor and a few sharp shooting hunky PSDs. Who’d a thunk it?
All the staff are ok, (ours, not the other hotel’s staff), and things are all calmed down. The guys measuring for new windows have come in and done their work and gone. Plastic is being put up where needed.
Last night as I was working up here I saw another wedding procession of cars on the street way across the way. It was the second wedding I’d seen last evening. They procession stopped, the celebrants got out and danced to drums and shouts. Gunfire could be heard. I stayed a bit away from the window in case rounds came my way. It really IS different here. I’m told there are cartridges up on the roof and as soon as one of the the PSDs is ready to go up there with me, (I already went up and peeked), I’ll go take photos of those too. Yes, I’ll be wearing my body armor. No point in tempting Fate. I’m also going to record what Baghdad REALLY looks like so you’ll know.
You’re SO not going to believe what you’ll see. (You didn’t really think it was all pretty and nice, now DID you?) I’ve been uploading shots that have sort of made this city look almost normal. Well, now that I’m coming home, I’m shooting what’s real and true, not what my recent work has made it appear. Trust me, home is better.
My work here has now come to an end and I’ll be home early next week. I’m really sorry to leave adventures behind, but Life moves on.
I’ll miss this place. I really will.
Most of all, I’ll miss the Iraqis.