I was running. It was 8:30, and I was already an hour late. I knew I was in for a lot of scathing comments. As I walked up to the door, I saw her, impatiently tapping her foot, with a murderous look on her face she said, “Welcome, your highness! I see you finally decided to grace us with your presence.” Muttering a hurried apology, I started walking alongside her. When we entered, I saw a few men coming in behind us out of the corner of my eyes. I had no time to think, because a split second later, they drew out their guns.
They started firing shots and screaming “Allahu Akbar!” I scrambled forward to find shelter, and tried to look for Diya. I could not see her anywhere. Suddenly, I felt a hand pull me up by my collar, and asking me to recite a verse of the Quran. Even though I did not practice Islam, I knew a lot of the verses, having heard my father pray everyday. I recited a verse from Quran, in a shaky voice . I felt his hold loosen. He made me sit in one side of the room, on a chair, along with the others who passed the test. They gave us food. I was still frantically looking around for Diya. Then I saw her.
She was in the other room, but I could see everything through the glass window. A man was standing above her, holding a knife. She seemed to be pleading, but he paid no heed. He drove the knife into her, multiple times.
Shock took over, and the ability to scream left me. I just sat there, eyes wide, voice frozen in my throat, heart still. I could see her writhing in pain. He did not even grant her a quick death. I tried to get up, but they always knocked me down. The next few hours passed by in a blur. I do not remember much about it. After this, all I remember is when they came to rescue us.
Shot. Crash. Screams.
I was grabbed, and taken outside to an ambulance, despite my repeated attempts to say that I am fine. I remember screaming for Diya, asking them to go and save her. But no one listened. I remember the faces of my parents, who looked like they had lived a hundred years of misery. I remember the faces of her parents, grief stricken, defeated.
One month later
It has been a month. I have been to a therapist, I have been to many group meetings, but nothing has helped. My friends and family have been very kind. They have told me that I can always talk to them about whatever I need to. But how do I explain to them what I feel? How do I tell them that I have still not accepted the fact that one of my closest friends is dead? How do I tell them about the anger I feel towards those men who propagate hate under the name of religion?
Is there a way to explain to them that their support does not soothe me?
Every night, I bargain with the God I don’t believe in. What wouldn’t I give, to see her smiling face in front of me again. I refuse to accept the fact that Diya, or anyone else for that matter, were chosen to be killed just because they could not recite verses from an ancient text, modified over thousands of years. I refuse to accept the fact that just because I have seen my father recite those verses for years and I could recite them, is the only reason I was spared.
Shot. Crash. Screams.
Every time I close my eyes, these sounds are all that I can hear. I go to school, I eat well, I do all those daily chores, but I cannot talk. I am afraid, if I talk about it, the pain that would go through me would be more than I could bear. That I would look more damaged than those cracked walls covered with blood. The thought of he unbearable emotions, that I’ve been storing will spill out in a chaotic fashion, scares me.
One day, I happen to glance at the headlines. “Terror attack in Mosul, 17 dead.” My blood boils. I go right back to that day, when I saw that man drive the knife ruthlessly into my friend. Again and again. I fail to understand how can anyone be so inhumane. That fateful day, those ten people weren’t the only ones who died. The rest of us died too. That knife slashed holes into our souls, ripped our hearts and slaughtered the people that we used to be.
Any glimmer of innocence that had ever sparked inside us was blown away. Just like that, our lives changed forever.
We cannot go back to being the people we used to be. No matter how much we try. All I can hope for is that one day, piece by piece, we’ll join ourselves back together. That we do not let this hate make victims out of us too. If not for us, then we do this for those who lost their lives. We cannot let the evil that destroyed their lives, define ours too. I refuse to fight hate with hate, and to hang on to anger so that I do not have to deal with pain.
It is hard; an agonizing truth that will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Yet, we will try to survive.
Maybe one day, it will be better. One day, this world will rise above the shelter of ignorance and hate. Maybe, one day the souls of those we lost will finally rest in peace.
Author’s note: ‘Shot. Crash. Screams.’ aims to highlight the pain and suffering faced by the survivors of terrorist attacks, be it anyone at any place. In these times, where terrorist attacks have become everyday news, where there are entire web pages dedicated to attacks that have happened only in the course of a month, it is important for every person to realize that terrorism is not a common ailment that will disappear in a day or two. It is an epidemic, a disease whose roots are so firmly lodged into the minds of the world, that even talking about dismantling their ideologies is called idealistic. This article is a small effort to remind people that we cannot rid the world of terrorism simply by doing nothing.
“In this very real world, good doesn’t drive out evil. Evil doesn’t drive out good. But the energetic displaces the passive.”