06 dec / The story of a Syrian boy: And then the bombs started falling
I was six years old. I remember playing outside our little house in that remote village that has no name anymore.
Life was all happy and fine. Not that my family owned much. A goat. Some chickens. We were poor, but we weren’t aware of that. My father was a carpenter, just like my grandfather and great-grandfather always had been. He made furniture and fixed the wooden bars of the flat rooftops so now and then. I visited my grandfather each day, right after school. I always found him smoking his nirgila or water pipe at his old house’s front porch. When he saw me he would laugh, open his arms wide and hug me. I would then fix him tea in one of those tiny glasses, so beautifully painted that I hardly dared to touch them.
“Don’t break them!” he would say while I was boiling the water, putting the tea leaves in a small pot and then slowly pouring out the water in the little glasses. Strong. With a lot of sugar. That’s how my grandfather liked it. After I got him his daily portion of sugar and tea (more sugar than tea in fact), I would sit down at his feet ready for a new episode of one of those old stories he used to tell me. His tales were always really funny but carried a deeper meaning that I had to figure out by asking the right questions. My grandfather called this “the lesson of the day”.
“That’s all,” my grandfather would say after he finished his latest story and he would go take a nap while I played with his hamer and small tool kit, building my own little play house with furniture made out of old cans, wood and some nails that were broken and couldn’t be used anymore.
The play house was of course no toy for a boy like me. I was building it for my little sister, who was only two years minor my age. I loved her deeply and felt quite responsible, being the older one and all. I wanted to be the best brother she ever had – easy challenge, having no competition. Still, I was proud of my little surprise in the make. My little palace for her to fall in love with.
I was just finishing up a quite tricky piece of furniture; a small table made of flattened can and unlit matches, when I noticed something.
It was quite in the valley. I didn’t see or hear a sound. My grandfather was sleeping, the goat was lying in the sand tired of eating and walking around, and the chickens where darting around my feat, when some big dark birds appeared in the sky. A loud snoring. Heavy growling like a thunder storm arriving from a village nearby.
Suddenly the world was darkened. Black shadows fall on the ground and took my play house out of sight. I looked up and saw a massive number of planes. Too many to count at once. The next thing I saw was the sight of their big bellies opening up and large buns falling down, like bread from heaven I thought – just like in that Bible story the priest had told us during Sunday school. I wanted to wake my grandpa, but before I could shout for his name, he appeared in the doorway, wearing nothing more than his undergarments. His grew hair stood up straight, and he had this bewildered look in his eyes. I didn’t know what to say, neither did he. My eyes were just fixed at his. And it was all silence. Then loud explosions followed, and a massive blow of dust and wind, and I fell on the ground. The explosions intensified. I screamed while I putted my hands on my ears. Nobody heard me. My grandpa, who I had seen falling down in a flash, seemed unreachable. I kept my eyes shut while the bombing continued and simply tried to breath, while dust and sand and powder and I don’t know what else crawled up in my longes, almost suffocating me.
Then the angry birds left. And I climbed up out of this pile of dust. I was dizzy and my ears rang like crazy. Still I tried to run to my grandpa. I found him, his body partly covered by the wooden bars of the roof top he once built with his one hands. That was it. He was dead. Just like my sister. My mother. My dad. All of them. Killed of by what I later came to know as the Al-Assad’s air force. I walked around through empty streets, every house completely destructed but one: my wooden play house stood ground. My lovely palace containing the joy and life of a little boy that once used to be… me.
This story is a piece of fiction. However it’s more than real to the many Syrian and Syrian-Palestian refugees I’ve met in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and the Netherlands. I have used some of their heartbreaking stories and testimonials to write this story. After several severe cuts that have hurt millions of Syrian refugees, 1.5 million plus came to hear they have been cut off food and emergency aid this week. Let us help Syrian children to play again. Help and donate to the International Red Cross, UNHCR or any local NGO. On behalf of those that have lost their voice: thank you.