Wherever we go and whatever we get; there are special moments in our lives which we never forget. As far as I’m concerned those days are the days of spring 2003.
A mixture of pain, horror, pride and sorrow is what they left in my memory, since that time I’ve been different.
My story started a couple of weeks before the war; a father tried to convince or force his only son to stay at home if the war starts “You won’t get out” said father. “My duty is to help people if there is a war” I replied, I was already trained for two years in the casualty unit so I was quite sure that I could help.
My father had got really angry after watching my insistence on refusing his orders; he shouted “Which duty? You’re not more than a student; I’m the one who takes decisions here, no one else”, “But, I’ve already made my decision” I said.
The argument ended and my poor father stopped talking to me for few days but, that didn’t help.
The 14th of March 2003, it was Ashuraa, I couldn’t fast that day as I’m used to, I got pain in my stomach which could limit my activities, The pain strangely persisted and I couldn’t manage it, I phoned a friend of mine who asked to see me to check it on the next day.
On the 15th of March there were big anti-war demonstrations all over the world and even in Baghdad; I didn’t attend as I went to the hospital to see my friend who told me that I had got an “Acute Appendicitis” and it should be removed, so I underwent a surgical operation, the thing which pleased my parents as I wouldn’t be able to leave the house.
When the war started I was bed ridden as there were couple of stitches in my abdomen, but few days later they were removed and I was ordered not to do any exercise for a week till the wound healed completely, During that time the war was going on, we were glued to the T.V and radio listening to the news and monitoring how the military operations were going on. My father got excited and his sense of patriotism peaked wishing that they would not be able to invade our country. As a result of this, he allowed me to go to the hospital when the week ended.
Saturday the 29th of March was my first day in the casualty unit of Al-Yarmook hospital; I took my place wearing the blue gown.
We received civilians and military people with different types of injuries, some of them were injured by the by the American bombs and others by the Iraqi aircraft resistant rockets which failed to hit their targets and fallen onto people.
As time went on the number of doctors was getting lower, as many of them couldn’t come anymore, yet, everything was going all right until the end of that week (3rd of April).
On Friday the 4th of April I didn’t go to the hospital, I heard the astonishing news “They have invaded the Airport”, I couldn’t believe it, For no reason I didn’t listen to the news on Thursday so I didn’t hear about it until Friday, “ How come they could invade the airport? Where was our army?” I was saying that to myself, everyone in my family was depressed, we didn’t know what to do, as our house was not far from the airport, I decided to change the system, I told them that I would go to stay in the hospital and not come back everyday as I used to do before.
At night we left our house to go somewhere, we were confused where to go, we decided to go to my uncle’s house in Al-Duraa in the southern part of Baghdad, as it was away from the airport which lies in the western part of the capital We did so and we had a good night there.
On Saturday morning we woke up on sounds of explosions and fighting, it was the Americans attacking from the southern part of Baghdad to sandwich the Iraqi forces which were attacking the Airport.
We got really confused between staying there and leaving as soon as possible, eventually we decided to leave, as we went out we faced something we had never faced before, the high way between Al-Dura and Al-Saidia was burning, it seemed that the fight there was just finished ,many military and civilian cars were destroyed and left in flames, many injured people were their and a lot of shells, it was a real nightmare, my father lost control and kept looking right and left instead of concentrating on driving the car carefully, suddenly we heard a strong noise, it wasn’t a bomb but, it was the tire of the car which was punctured as a shell entered into it.
We got outside the car and tried to change the wheel but we failed as the screws were fixed so tightly, at that time one of the guys who was wearing civilian clothes but holding a heavy machine gun ordered us to leave, saying “There will be a fight here soon, please leave this place” we left driving on the punctured tire till we crossed to Al-Qadisya region where I left my family after fixing the spared wheel.
Holding my bag and wearing my medical white coat I was walking the streets to reach the hospital, my mother refused to say goodbye as she disagreed with my decision, they told me that they might go to Al-Mansoor to our relatives.
I entered Al-Yarmook hospital to realize that the Iraqi army had been destroyed in the airport the night before. Hundreds of solders were injured; their numbers exceeded the hospital abilities, so we had to refer most of them to other hospitals after doing first aid.
Those moments were pretty hard as I had to see my people being killed for no reason; I went to the corpse’s freezer to see hundreds of corpses thrown in there, I tried to check if my family was among them as I wasn’t sure where they had gone, a lorry was waiting outside with other large number of burned corpses of solders.
They ordered the media to leave as they didn’t want them to see the disaster, we kept struggling with managing the injured until the afternoon when it settled down a bit and I could go to the room to pray and have lunch, I was completely disheartened, I smelled the odor of the defeat and I was worried about my family, everything was horrible, but I tried to go on.
After having lunch we went back to the casualty department to keep working but at a slower pace, as the number of injured was much less, still there was fighting. People both injured and killed were arriving from the borders of Baghdad where the Americans tried to create holes to get inside resulting in chaos.
At night; people arrived telling us that the Iraqi forces had kicked the Americans outside of the airport; I foolishly believed this and was pleased, it could be a fact that they retreated for a while but, not for a long time.
On Sunday the 6th of April, I went to see my family, I told them everything was all right and not to worry about me. I can’t forget how my mother looked at me as she didn’t believe my words, I left after awhile with reassurance that they were all right.
I went back to the hospital, injured people arrived from the airport telling us that the Americans had invaded again, the day wasn’t so hard, yet it wasn’t easy either, a family was destroyed, large number of people were injured in Al-Amyl area and a solder arrived with half head as the American sniped him by their weapons.
At night we went outside the main door of the hospital, Nizar and I looked at Baghdad, it was dark and sad like woman who bereaved of a child.
At 7 A.M on Monday the 7th of April, I woke up trying to pray there was no water and I heard sounds of fight, I thought it was near Baghdad O’clock, after a couple of minutes the door was knocked on by one of the doctors telling us that the casualty unit is filled with injured people, we ran to see them. I asked one of them where he came from; he replied “We went to ambush the Americans under Um Al-Tubool Bridge, but they were already there and they attacked us”
I was completely shocked, that bridge is just a few hundreds of meters away from the hospital, which meant……!!!!!
Before finishing those words I heard the sounds of their weapons, the Americans stopped just a way from the hospital and started shooting people randomly, we were waving to the cars asking them to go back but they couldn’t notice that, cars were coming and the Americans kept shooting them as they got closer to their trunks which were hidden.
An ambulance was tackled while it tried to bring pregnant ladies who were in labour.
After a while they started attacking the hospital, so we had to withdraw from one of the emergency rooms, working in two instead of three of them, then they bombed the generators so we lost the lights and we kept working without electricity. The third attack was the strongest one, they attacked the department of medicine which was evacuated and replaced to be a security centre. I’m still surprised how they attacked only the third floor which was the main place for the security forces, yet they destroyed everything around and broke all the windows.
After living terrible time and after praying to God asking him to make my death easy on my mother, I started working again, as had the others, we managed our patients till they stopped arriving as the hospital became a front. I remembered one of the nurses who got a hysterical attack, I tried to stop her but I failed, I solved the situation by slapping her which was successful and funny at that hard time.
At 3:30 P.M, Monday we had to evacuate the hospital, I left with a friend of mine; we walked through the streets of Al-Qadisiya region. We could hardly cross the main road to get inside the narrow roads of Al-Ma’amoon quarter. We kept walking helplessly in the cloudy, humid and dusty weather. We were exhausted and worried as we might be killed at any moment. We walked till we reached Al-Mansoor region which was not far, I heard an explosion but I didn’t know where it was, later on I realized that it was the horrible attack behind Al-Sa’aa restaurant.
I was picked up by somebody there, the thing which pleased me as I was tired; however the terror came back as I realized that the guy was a member in the intelligence system and he was preparing to go to the battle.
Luckily I left his car near Al-Sa’aa restaurant which badly affected by the attack, I walked in the streets to reach the Russian embassy where my relatives’ house was, I kept walking but my energy was going down, I was a bit lost and I didn’t know how to reach the place which wasn’t faraway from where I was, I kept asking people to tell me the way, I walked until a white old car stopped, a guy looked at me saying “they told me to take you to the Russian embassy” his words were like a surprise, like a water for a thirsty person in desert, the guy took my to my family and refused to leave until I made sure that my family was there in case I might need something else, he left then and I never saw him again, I really wish I could thank him properly.
I hugged my mother who was so worried about me and I was gathered with my family again, the thing which I miss nowadays.
A couple of days later, the war was over and we went back home. Life went on and it has been four years now, many things have been changed, yet those days and my feelings about them never changed.
One of the doctors, who I was working with during those days, phoned me few weeks ago saying “Whenever you feel homesick, just remember those days”, “I do so and I miss them”
Maybe people would think I’m crazy, stupid or desperado, yet; I miss those days, they made me A&Eiraqi.