Thursday, March 15, 2012
Life Under Fire is No Way to Live
Life Under Fire is No Way to Live
Ashdod, Israel - March 2012
by Sara L. Shomron
The beautiful and bustling coastal city of Ashdod had all but come to a screeching halt recently. Stores and outdoor cafes in the commercial center that remained open mid-afternoon had nary a customer. Ashdod’s central bus station usually filled with foot traffic and noise was eerily skeletal and quiet.
Midday Ashdod. Traffic was barely noticeable. Few people were on the streets enjoying the lovely weather. One of my students pointed out that he was, for the very first time, able to immediately find parking and arrive at class on time – even a tad early. Certainly a silver lining to the security situation.
What is it like to live under fire? How are people coping? Ever aware that post traumatic stress can be minimized if people exposed to traumatic experiences and events immediately express themselves, I asked my adult students to share their thoughts.
Picture yourself residing in a high-rise apartment; fourth floor; no elevator; the bomb shelter is in the basement. You’re elderly or perhaps have young ones underfoot or are a physically challenged person. You might be in the shower or bath when suddenly you hear the blaring siren alerting you of the incoming rocket projectile(s). You have only 45 seconds in which to seek cover. You must have the presence of mind to decide where to seek cover. The stairwell? An interior room? Or perhaps you’ll race down the flights of stairs to join those ahead of you calling you in a state of panic, to hurry – as one of my students did. He quickly took several stairs at a time challenging himself to take more stairs each time he rushed downstairs to the protected area. In the process of accomplishing five stairs at a time his new iPod, an item he described as a personal appendage, flew from his hand shattering the screen. A war casualty not to make light of it. He mused that he needs a fireman pole.
And what of those with young children? Parent and child(ren) alike are afraid to go out to the park, ride a bike, or roller blade.A student with toddlers said her four year old son wants to know the meaning of the siren. An age appropriate explanation was given and now he’s terrified to go outside. How many others? Another student rhetorically asked how she, with two youngsters, could adequately protect her children and herself outdoors. While yet another student with older children said her children were angry with her because she ran to the balcony to watch the people running for shelter and see the plume of smoke from the Iron Dome in action. She related how a girl was in the street running for cover with a young boy in hand when the boy fell. An oncoming car saw the child in the road and squealed to an abrupt stop as a group of men rushing out from the pre-fab synagogue quickly picked up the child and carried him to a nearby shelter.
And public transportation? “Open the bus doors- I must get off the bus – I have a baby to bring into this world” a pregnant student shouted at the bus driver whose doors weren’t responding. She was the only passenger on the bus when the siren blared – and she was shaking with fright. The bus had pulled to the side of the road – but the doors wouldn’t open. Finally the doors opened and the student ran for cover in a nearby building. Whenever outdoors, her eyes scan the area in search of a protected area were it to be suddenly needed.
And while driving? One student related that he was on the Tel Aviv southbound highway when a car suddenly pulled over to the side of the road. He opened his window and like others behind him, pulled over to the shoulder. It turned out there wasn’t a siren; the driver in the front car had merely pulled over. Other students weren’t clear how to proceed on the road saying traffic continued and it was impossible to pull over to the shoulder though one student shared how she chose to step on the gas and drive through a red light.
Lastly, students told of hospitality offered them by family and friends living in other parts of the country. While they were most appreciative they were unanimous that their life must continue as normal – or as normal as possible given the circumstances. They have their work, their friends, their lives to live and wouldn’t consider leaving Ashdod.
Their conclusion: life under fire is no way to live.