My first bus bombing, Part III

Memorial to a victim of a previous attack on the same stretch of the Coastal Road south of Zichron Yaakov.

(Part I  is here and Part II is here.)

My patient loaded into the ambulance, I could take a deep breath. From the moment I started moving to the front of the bus until now I had been functioning on autopilot. I probably looked calm, in charge, competent, and I really was all those things. But there was a huge disconnect between me-functioning and me-terrified while I was busy giving first aid. As my hearing started to come back, so did my feelings. I noticed that I was trembling.

A fellah  from the village a few hundred meters off the road had taken it up on himself to gather all the luggage and personal effects from the storage bins under the bus and wherever else they had landed all into one area at the side of the road. He was an old man wearing a dingy galabiyeh and leaning on a heavy ancient wooden cane. He stood silently and shooed away the curious village boys who were looking speculatively at our stuff. He caught my eye for a long moment, slowly shook his head in sorrow, and looked away.

A young woman was sitting hunched over, crying, while a young man held her to his chest and whispered into her hair.

Another lady started laughing a little hysterically. This is the first bus I’ve been on since the last bus I was on was bombed. Do you understand? The first time I get on another bus, it’s bombed? What is this supposed to be? What is this?

A student started trying to hitch a ride. People told her to wait, the police were going to interview us and the company was sending another bus to take us to Jerusalem. Another bus? I don’t have time – I’ll be late. I’ll be late. I’ll be late, I don’t have time. And we all understood there was no point in trying to dissuade her. She flagged down a car and got in.

As it turned out, there was no second bomb on the bus and now the press swooped in. A little boy had been on the bus traveling alone. I remembered his grandmother putting him onto the bus and asking the driver to keep an eye on him until his mother picked him up at the station in Jerusalem. Now he was standing with a couple of the young soldiers, blinking away tears and trying to “be brave”.

A reporter came up to the child and shoved a microphone into his face while a photographer clicked away. Were you afraid, asked the reporter. Did you cry? Did you see all the blood? How did that feel? Were you afraid? Weren’t you sad that your mama wasn’t there with you? Did you cry? Are you afraid? Are you ever getting on a bus again? What did you think about the blood? Did you see that? Don’t you want to cry? What did you see?

I wanted to slap the woman and shove the microphone down her stupid throat. One of the soldiers looked over and saw the child under what I can only call attack. He strode over and carried the little boy off. Later on I heard him say, Crying is okay. Soldiers cry too. You’ll be a soldier like me some day. It’s okay to cry. I was scared, too.

Another photographer got off the bus talking about the great shot he got of a blood-filled shoe on top of a newspaper. That shoe was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes after the explosion and it is the image that has stayed with me the longest. I cannot think of that shoe filled with the red not-rain without tears pressing behind my eyes, even now while I’m typing this. What do you mean “great shot”, I thought to myself. Someone’s blood is filling up his shoe where his foot should be. What exactly is great about that?

Another bus was pulling up, and someone told us all to board it. Several of us – and I was one – crawled all over that bus, inside and out, checking for suspicious objects before we boarded. We were told that we would be taken to the nearby police station and then on to Jerusalem.

16 Responses

  1. biblio says:

    I can only, at this moment, absorb this on a visual and, in a sense, technical sense.

    Is thanking you for writing this shallow? Is it equally shallow, or the equivalent of saying it’s a “great shot,” to tell you that you succeed in making this situation real for your readers?

    • Knot Telling says:

      Making it real for people is one of the big reasons for writing this, biblio. It is so easy to hear about something like this on the news, sigh, and move on. I wanted to concentrate on the people involved, on what we saw and felt and heard and looked like. I am glad that it seems to mean something to you, and your kind words are not shallow at all. Thank you for writing me!

  2. purplesque says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I don’t know what else to say…we all need to read/hear these not-stories.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting so kindly, purplesque. It is hard to hear these not-stories (thank you for the perfect word), but I really believe that it is in such narratives that we come to realize (to make real) what other people are living and experiencing every day. It is important to tell and hear them.

      Violence is not only political; it is personal. Real people live out its consequences and are forever changed.

  3. Maxine D says:

    Having just read all three entries I am deeply moved – it has brought an human element to that which we ‘know’ happens on the other side of the world.
    May you know His peace supporting you as you continue to live in this difficult situation in your country.

  4. aallegoric says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry you had to endure this. You’re brave.

    • Knot Telling says:

      I’m not brave! Everyone steps up to handle whatever they are faced with. I like what Bruno Bettleheim (I think) said: In extraordinary situations, ordinary people behave in extraordinary ways.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. bethgainer says:

    Wow. You really bring this experience to life with your words. I feel anger toward the reporters trying the sensationalize a senseless crime. Awful.

  6. dear Knot,

    I just read all three parts of your experiences with the bus bombing. tears are stinging my eyes, and I have a heavy weight atop my heart. I can hardly wrap my head around all the horror. but we NEED the kind of descriptions you have provided – the real, the humanized, the truths of what it is like to endure such emotional and physical pain. we NEED it! we are all connected on this earth, and the least we can do is pay witness to such devastation, hold it into the light of our everyday, sometimes complacent, places and attitudes. we need tears to sting and weights atop our hearts so that somehow, some way, we will understand that even if we only experience this sort of trauma through the eyes of others, hopefully it will translate into being more aware of the power of both the lowest and the highest callings of humanity. we need to know the worst in order to do all we can to elevate the highest in our daily dealings with others. I am so very sorry you had to endure that awful trauma. still…we see such goodness in people, people like you whose first thoughts were for others, people like the old man who collected, then stood guard over the victims belongings. safe passage to you in this most current conflict, safe passage my Dear Friend.

    much love,


    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you, Karen. That is why I wrote it: so that people could see the story behind the news item and maybe to humanize the conflict.

  7. Susanne says:

    I only just found this story, linked in a current post, and I read through all three parts. I am sorry you had to endure this. The image of the shoe is a powerful one. Even without a photograph, your words are enough to create the picture and share the experience with us. That poor child, hounded by the press. I’m glad someone carried him off away from that.

    • Knot Telling says:

      The shoe was one of the last intrusive memories to stop being a problem during the post-traumatic stress period. That and the red not-rain that filled it.

      It’s my daily prayer that no one will have to experience that ever again.

  1. 20 December, 2011

    […] III is here. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeOne blogger likes this post. Categories: Jerusalem […]

  2. 21 December, 2011

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

  3. 5 April, 2014

    […] Part III is here. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: