My first bus bombing, Part I

I don’t recall the noise as much as the air pressure. It was as if the six sides of an invisible cube were collapsing in on me. I remember a feeling of weightlessness, then I was bent backwards over the back of a bus seat and several people were piled on top of me. A hot wetness spread from the man directly on top of me and I wondered if he was dead. I wondered if I was dead or about to die. I tried to remember the words of a prayer at the point of death, but I couldn’t.

It was a Sunday morning in the mid 1980s, before the First Intifada. An early bus from Haifa to Jerusalem, traveling south along the Coastal Road. Sunday is the first day of the work week in Israel, and the early morning bus was filled beyond capacity with students returning to the university from a weekend at home, soldiers returning to base, business people on their way to meetings or conferences – the usual post-weekend crowd. Skinny girls shared seats meant for one passenger, the center aisle was crammed with standing passengers, luggage between their feet, and even the steps leading down to the rear door were occupied. People were sleeping, chatting, listening to music on headphones, reading newspapers. An army officer was seated next to me in the aisle seat, and I read his open newspaper out of the corner of my eye.

It was raining inside the bus, red rain. Oh. Not rain. I saw an empty shoe, filling with the red not-rain. The body on top of me – it was the army officer – rolled to the side, and I could see the front of the bus. The driver, his chair gone, was standing at the steering wheel, using both hands to get control of the vehicle. I could read the tension in the muscles of his arms and back. Another man, a passenger, also stood and battled with the mechanism. I was reminded of movies about seafarers braving the elements as they struggle with the ship’s wheel. Unbelievably, the two men managed to bring the bus to a shuddering stop at the side of the road without hitting any other vehicle.  I realized that I wasn’t about to die, but I didn’t understand what was happening. “Are we being shot at,” I asked no one in particular.

This was a trip I made often because I had friends who lived north of Haifa and I frequently spent weekends with them. My favorite part of the trip was along the stretch of coastal road. I always tried to sit near the window so I could look out at the calm, blue Mediterranean Sea. Soon the bus would move inland and I  would be able to look at the small Bedouin camps near Jericho, watch the children herding goats and the women working under the hot sun. I always enjoyed this two-hour trip and thought of it as the last part of a pleasant weekend away.

An older woman began shrieking hysterically. “Shut up, Shoshana, nothing happened! It’s just a flat tire,” her male companion yelled. I felt sorry for her. People began to move, checking their limbs. I found I was in no pain and could stand up, so I did. I began to move along the aisle somehow, trying to see if there was anyone I could help. Behind the driver lay a man, pale and sweaty, with a severe crush injury to his lower leg. I made my way to him.

Part II is here.

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22 Responses

  1. Pranab says:

    One word: Scary. :/

  2. A very compelling story. I’m on the edge of my seat to hear the rest, even though it’s a difficult story to read. I hope Part II is coming soon.

  3. Don Ellis says:

    You write wonderfully well about such unwonderful things … keep it up.

  4. Quite an experience. A calm coastal ride that turned into a fearsome nightmare, no waking from. Waiting to read more.


  5. Knot Telling says:

    James, Don, Leela – Yes, it was one of the experiences in my life that changed the way I live. Thanks for your kind words. I’m working on Part II, but it’s taking me some time to work through it.

  6. Judy Simon says:

    Your first bus bombing? Does that mean you’ve been in others or do you just think there might be more? That is a great piece of writing.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thanks for the compliment, Judy.

      I’m glad you noticed the title. I’ve only been in one bus bombing so far, but once something like that has happened, your world changes. There is now one more element in your “possibility box”. So yes, I can’t help thinking that there might be another one.

  7. This is a compelling story. Thank you for reposting it.

  8. bethgainer says:

    Absolutely riveting to read. I’m going to Part II.

  1. 17 December, 2011

    […] call myself a cancer survivor (Have I survived yet? Part I and Part II), a survivor of terrorism (My first bus bombing Part I and Part II with Part III being edited), and a survivor of some very ghastly childhood experiences, […]

  2. 18 December, 2011

    […] can read Part I here and Part II […]

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    […] Part I is here. […]

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    […] Part I, Part II, Part III Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  5. 13 August, 2012

    […] not the most read or the most commented, my favorite posts are the series about the bus bombing (starts here) and the “fundamentally happy” posts (here and […]

  6. 19 November, 2012

    […] being shot at and life under rocket attack, and I’ve blogged a little bit about my own experience in a bus bombing. Immediately following that experience I was virulently racist and radically right-wing. I’m […]

  7. 5 April, 2014

    […] Part I is here. […]

  8. 5 April, 2014

    […] (Part I  is here and Part II is here.) […]

  9. 5 April, 2014

    […] the posts about being on a bus when it was bombed (Part I – Part II – Part III) has been an interesting experience. Even today, over twenty […]

  10. 14 July, 2014

    […] that time I was recovering from spine surgery related to my injury in the bus bombing. I was in pain and moved with great difficulty. A caregiver came to my home every morning to help […]

  11. 23 September, 2014

    […] feeling bad about myself, thinking about how cancer and major injuries like the one I got in the bus bombing have left me with a distorted body and impaired physical and mental ability; feeling ugly and […]

  12. 20 May, 2015

    […] accident, but still involving a motor vehicle, the bomb on the bus. I wrote about it extensively in earlier posts, so I’ll just give the rough outline. The bomb was under the driver’s seat and I was seated on […]

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