It was July 2014, a few days after the war in Gaza started. I was at home with my wife, Reem, and our two kids, Lily, 5, and Joe, 4. Like every other family in Gaza, we were dressed to leave at a moment’s notice – Lily was wearing the pink track suit I bought her for her birthday and Joe his favorite Superman t-shirt and jeans. Reem put all of our documents, passports, cash, photos, jewels and some clothes into one small easy-to-carry bag for that moment when the war would come too close. We were waiting either for the war to come to an end, or for our lives to.
The four-story building that we shared with my three brothers and their families was next to a five-story building belonging to the Saed family, our neighbors. It was about 1:00 pm when a huge explosion took place, shaking everything for several seconds. We all heard and felt things hitting our building.
There were only two possibilities: our building was hit and these were our last few seconds together until the building came down, killing us all, or, the building next to us was the one that was hit. Seconds passed with millions of images and ideas racing across my mind – did I make a mistake getting married and having kids in a place famous for wars…should I have left years ago when I had the chance…???
Then it was calm. We were still alive.
I ran to the other room looking for Lily and Joe; they were too scared to cry, holding each other and sitting in the corner, speechless. Lily was looking at Joe’s Superman t-shirt, as if she were waiting for him to help her; Joe was looking at his older sister, believing that she would know what to do. I picked them both up, kissed them quickly and gave them to their mother because I had to figure out what to do.
I was thinking that since we were alive, the Saed family could not be. I was praying that they had survived too, then I stopped in my tracks – what if their building had not been hit either…what if the missile had missed its target…what if …???
This meant that there would be another hit soon.
For one crazy second, part of me wanted that ugly missile not to have missed its target. Yes, part of me wanted to see the other building down, giving us the chance to escape. But that would mean that the Saeds were gone forever. I told myself I would be able to feel sorry for them later. I ran to the window, but the Saeds’ building was still there.
It was still there.