A brief Author's Note:
Here is the prologue of one of my original works known as The Price Of Freedom. I wrote this the day BEFORE March 2003's Shock And Awe campaign began. It's very old but I wrote it because I empathize with people who live over there where they don't know what to think. They're afraid, angry and don't live as clean or as wholesome as a life as we do. Their leaders tell them that Americans are evil murderers and savages. Their homes are bombed and they're surrounded by extremists and fanatics. I wrote this portion at the end of February in 2003 as a prologue following one Iraqi family whose life is about to change when America comes to town. I wrote it in hopes that these middle easterners would come to accept the truth: America means well. Also, I wrote it in hopes that we Americans continue to remember that these Middle Eastern Civilians are NOT our enemies.
Remember September 11th
But remember, not every middle eastern person is a terrorist.
Many of them are just as afraid as we are in many respects.
Shock & Awe campaign, Late March 2003, "A-day" plus 1.
The soft white cloth sitting on the table was covered in dust. Another layer had fallen off the ceiling, coating the floor and inexpensive furnishings against the walls of the tiny dwelling. The small home shook gently, once more. A grimy window held the view of a rusted looking 1970's Mercedes sedan; through the window was the looming smoke that could assure any that what they heard was much more than thunder.
The inky nothing that was the sky only hours before had turned to a bright gray cloud of debris. The city's lights reflected off of the dust cloud, illuminating it gently. Occasionally a few spots of the sky would light up in unsuccessful anti-aircraft fire.
Hayat lowered her eyes. The veil in which concealed those soft ebon locks of her bangs had been lightly covered in dust from the ceiling. Her arms gently tightened about her daughter, Fareeza, lifting the cloth-covered infant, to place her lips gently upon the infant's forehead. Her veiled face allowed only cloth to brush against cloth but the symbol of affection was understood, and the child calmed somewhat.
Galeb turned to his wife. Her olive skin and raven hair was covered, save for her hands which were attending to their daughter, Fareeza. His heart felt as though it would explode in his chest, as he moved near to his family. His lower lip was gently chewed upon, his hand coming pensively to his chin, stroking his beard laced with lines of gray.
Galeb didn't know what to do. His chest burned with worry for his two sons Ameen and Nabonidas. The television did very little to comfort, now that the image was nothing more than static. He turned slowly back to his wife and offered no smile of comfort. The clay baked bricks of their neighbors home had long-since collapsed from the proximity of the blasts. Galeb could only frown and shake his head.
"Do you think we'll die?" Hayat's voice was soft, submissive. It was the first time she'd spoke since evening prayer.
"Hayat, my wife," began the master of the household, "I don't know. The Americans are said to kill those who stand in their way. But I don't know what we've done. It seems they ask us to do something we have no control over. I don't know what more they could possibly want," Galeb said, his fingers still caressing the peppered strands of his beard.
The Television fluttered with static laced pictures that were overly difficult to make out. A short glimpse was given of what was once the Presidential Compound then another quick glimpse at Kirkuk. A blue bar with white scroll was barley visible at the bottom of the screen before the image digressed to mere static. Galeb turned once more to his wife.
The fear in her eyes was beyond anything he'd seen before. He knew that her heart was beating just as hard. Fareeza had grown quiet and for that he was somewhat relieved. Drawing them close, Galeb placed his arms about their bodies, lowering to the dust-coated bed mattress, to keep close. The house shook again. Drawing both his wife and daughter into his chest, Galeb's eyes fluttered shut, to keep the dust from his vision.
Another line of deep pounding was heard followed by a massive thunderclap of sound that caused the grimy window in the front of the room to crack. The spider-web no longer allowed easy visibility to the rest of Baghdad. Galeb couldn't stand his curiosity and kissed his wife upon the head, standing to go to the door.
The small blue door was in need of a paint job. The paint was starting to peel quite badly on the front and the knob was rusty, clicking and grinding when he turned it. Across the street, palm trees fluttered gently. Beyond that, the new Hospital seemed to be well illuminated, unscathed by battle. Galeb almost seemed confused. Why hadn't they hit the hospital yet?
The war seemed to be directed at only one major portion of town at this point. The house was in poor condition from how poorly it had been made. It held through the war a decade ago, but it was being shaken worse than any war had ever shaken it before. The wall adjacent to the door frame had cracked underneath where the window was set.
A light layer of dust and floating debris had covered the old Mercedes with a light coat of grime. Suddenly the moment of silence was pierced by the howling whistle of an approaching missile. It flew over the small home followed by a massive explosion that seemed too far away to assume they were related. The skyline was filled with sun swept crimson, fading into a plume of thick smoke. An Iraqi tank rolled by, heading for the inner city.
Galeb turned his fear-filled gaze back to the veiled visage of his second spouse with a frown. The house shook again, causing Hayat to screech in surprise. He quickly returned across the small dwelling to his loved ones. It was then that the house began to give way. The roof began to collapse, the walls adjacent to the door frame starting to crumble.
Galeb placed his hand upon her veiled head, pushing Hayat and baby Fareeza to the floor, helping them to quickly get underneath the bed. Galeb put his hip behind an old dusty desk, pushing it towards the bedside. He climbed underneath, maneuvering himself partially underneath the bed's mattress, laying upon the floor. Behind him, the house continued to give way, crumbling about them, collapsing to the ground. The window shattered and the door was flung from its hinges, landing upon the hood of the old, rusty car in front of their home.
Galeb suddenly felt a pain spiking through his body. It started at the base of his spine and spread throughout him, only exceeded by the sudden new pain in his right leg. He knew he'd not climbed underneath the desk and bed quickly enough, and the rubble crashed down upon his right leg, below his knee. In the back of his mind, he could hear Fareeza crying and Hayat shouting in fear. Her worries were confirmed when Galeb finally found enough breath to shout in pain. His leg and his foot had been crushed underneath the hundreds of pounds of rubble that was once a ceiling - once a roof.
The pain was so great that he could feel his consciousness slipping away. The pain gradually grew less, and he was able to breath easier... It was then that Fareeza and Hayat's voices went from dull to nonexistent. Galeb had fainted from the pain.
Hayat didn't know any better for her husband. She didn't know that the rubble was keeping him from bleeding to death, by applying massive pressure to his leg. She used her free arm to try and pull him but he didn't move. His only response was heavy breathing. Her heart pounded; glad he was alive, but fearful for his situation. She silently cursed Americans, not wishing for her daughter to hear such words or tones.
The bed was obviously carrying some amount of weight. But even Hayat knew that only the front of the house collapsed, for a bed could never hold the weight of their entire ceiling. The dwelling shook again as another now-muffled explosion filled the air. She was alone.
Fareeza's crying began to taper off, and for that small miracle, Hayat was pleased. How could Americans and British forces be so close? Had Iraq's president failed them? He promised the protection of Allah. He swore sure victory. He promised that "evil, little Bush" would do them no harm. She could hear the Television crackling in the background. The static sound was loud, considering how muffled it was by the rubble.
Hayat looked back to her husband, trying to squint in the darkness underneath the bed, to see how bad his injuries were. Her soft, tender hand began to trace his body back towards the desk, trying to learn of that which had happened to him. Those soft digits of her fingertips stopped when her reach made it to just below the knee of his right leg. She could feel cold rock against her palm, touching to test its weight. There was no way she could move it, especially with Fareeza in her other arm.
The receiving blanket wrapped about Hayat's daughter was still dry. It was the only thing that she could be happy about. With all else that had happened, with the American, British, Spanish invasion, Hayat could only fear for what was left to become of her life and the life of her daughter.
The land shook again. Lying on the floor, Hayat could feel the ground underneath her body shaking with vigorous hate. Tears began to soak her veil, making it cling to her face. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see waning luna which was illuminating the area underneath the bed and desk, caused by the slight gap between the two furnishings.
Sanguine wounds littered her husband's forehead. She could tell the cuts and scrapes were from his haste of diving underneath the desk in attempt to escape the broken stone that was once their home. She had no water in which to clean his wounds with and she had not the strength to get him to the hospital.
It seemed like a waste for him to be injured across the highway from the medical center. Quickly, Hayat ripped her sleeve, tearing the fabric cleanly. The stitching held but the fabric tore with ease. She placed the child upon her stomach, leaning over, on her back towards Galeb's form. Carefully, she lifted his head, wrapping the shred of garment about his head, above his ears. It resembled a crude sash, but was the best she could do, to protect his wounds from the dirt of the floor.
The burning sensation in her chest cried out to her countryman for rescue, but knew there would be none. Hayat gently drew her daughter before her once more, kissing her through the cowl. The static sound of the television began to fizzle out, dying quickly into silence. Now she was truly alone with Fareeza. She attempted to think of ways that her husband could wake up and save her, but it seemed bleak.
Minutes turned into hours. Hours of loneliness only brought more fear. Fear only brought doubt and anger towards those that wished to harm them. As a young wife, Hayat could remember ten years ago, when she helped partake in the burning of an American flag for her country's media. She stood before the camera at her husband's side, fueling a street fire from which her and other countrymen lit American Flags. She could only wonder how Allah could allow such evil people to live in the world.
The bombardment had come to a pause. Now the only explosions that filled the sky belonged to that of antiaircraft from her country. She prayed that their aim was true, praying that explained the reason for the end of the dropping bombs. Something told her that it wasn't over however her patriotic heart begged to know that her country had fought off the evil invasion.
Abu Dhabi's television footage was never seen by her eyes. But those images were instead felt in her heart, fearful at each muffled burst of what sounded like rolling thunder in the distance. She could hear the Al Jazeera exclusive report far in the background. Assuming that her neighbor's radio was blasting, she strained to hear the words but couldn't make them out.
Fareeza was sleeping through the night and Galeb had yet to awaken from his slumber. Another howl of a fighter plane flew over head, followed by the long rattling of machine guns being fired. Assumably, her country was firing on the war planes, chasing it away. Silence returned.
After a moment the radio broadcast went silent. She had to wonder if it was running on battery power, and if it was, had it gone dead? The air was filled with the call to Prayer. The soft vocal song filled the air, lasting only several moments. Once again, she was alone...
Hayat was immediately awakened by the cries of her daughter. She couldn't yet figure out what had woken the infant up and worried. Light traces of sunlight began to filter in through the gap between the desk and the bed and she knew it was morning. Fareeza's soft cries only grew louder. In an attempt to wake her husband, Hayat reached out to shake him gently. He, however, did not stir. His breathing was heavy and deep and she knew that he lived, still.
In the background, but growing ever closer, Hayat could hear marching. Rhythmic footsteps of a well trained army approached. As it neared, she could hear the cadence and realized that it wasn't that of an Iraqi. Her heart was filled with fear again as she tried desperately to quiet Fareeza's cries. Perhaps that was what had awoken the slumbering child...
As the marching grew closer, Fareeza's cries grew louder. It caused Hayat's eyes to well up with water from the fear gnawing at her heart. She knew that if she couldn't quiet her daughter, they would all die.
"Please... Fareeza... Please, don't cry. Please..." her pleading was answered with more sobs. She knew she had to feed her child, and hoped that such could be the answer to her prayers for silence. Drawing her garment open, she tucked the infant to her bosom, in attempt to feed and quiet the baby.
It didn't work. Fareeza was unhappy at this offering and her cries grew louder. Hayat felt hopeless. All would be lost if she couldn't quiet her daughter. They would surly die. Her husband would be killed and her daughter would be murdered. She would be raped and left for dead. Realizing that she was shaking, Hayat tried to gain some semblance of control, hoping that if she were to stop shaking, her daughter would accept the milk.
It was then, when the marching was at it's absolute loudest, that it stopped. Fareeza's cries were at their loudest and Hayat feared it had been detected by the enemy army. Her fears were only confirmed when she heard the shouting of commands. Her veil, once again, was soaked with tears, fearing her death and the murder of her family.
She could hear approaching footsteps, and her breath caught in her chest. It sounded as though they were lifting the rubble from the collapsed home. She could hear grunts of several men and perhaps women, heaving the large rocks and throwing them aside. Hayat wondered how they could be so cruel that they would dig their way to a civilian just to kill them.
Fareeza's cries grew louder. Hayat's heart beat harder. Her tears grew blinding, washing the stinging sweat of her forehead, from her vision, but blurring it just the same. She knew that she would die soon and prayed that they wouldn't rape her. She heard a word in American that she didn't understand.
"MEDIC!" The strange cry almost sounded like it was full of concern but she assumed that it was only a concern that they only find and kill every living being. She wondered if "medic" meant "kill them" in the American language. It was now that she felt prouder than ever, to have celebrated two years ago, the attack on America. She felt now, more than ever, that they were the most evil beings on the planet. She only feared for the life of her daughter.
Rubble had been lifted from the desk and from the bed, allowing a greater deal of sunlight to filter in through that gap between the furnishings. She could tell that there was a group of them working together as a team to clear out a path to the hiding family. Fareeza's cries turned into screams of despair, as if begging for relief from this temporary dungeon they were trapped within.
Hayat drew what little pride she had and covered her child, tucking the baby back against her chest, holding her daughter close. Her back was aching from lying on the floor underneath the bed, throughout the night. Her fears were replaced by Iraqi patriotism. She knew that she would be a proud Iraqi to the end, knowing now, more than ever, that Saddam had not mislead her by telling his people that the Americans were evil murderers.
"I NEED TWO MEDICS. I've got a baby crying down here! Move this desk!" Those words meant nothing to her. She couldn't understand the commands given by those above the rubble, but they sounded serious. She could easily assume by the tone of the commands that they were in a hurry to get to her and her family so they could kill them.
As the desk was lifted away from the bed, she could see her enemy before her. It wasn't, however, what she expected to see. A woman knelt down besides Galeb's slumbering form. The help of her colleagues made quick work of clearing out the rock that had crushed his leg. She said something to them. The men, to Hayat's surprise, obeyed, quickly rolling Galeb upon his back.
Hayat's voice to ward them off had been lost by the fear that crushed her chest. Her eyes darted nervously to the woman, from her husband. The woman wore a red badge with a white cross shaped symbol.
The woman carefully ripped Galeb's pants leg open. It was then that Hayat found her voice and screamed in anger and fear. It didn't seem to phase the woman in the uniform whatsoever. Hayat quickly sat up from underneath the bed, shouting curses at the woman that ripped her husband's pant leg. Hayat felt the tears burning her eyes as the woman displayed the wound where powder-white bone was jutting from Galeb's leg.
"I need morphine, I'll have to set his leg and it's gonna be messy if he wakes up to that," The woman said. Confusion was held in Hayat's eyes as the lady began to clean Galeb's wounds with some sort of medical cloth. She poured something onto her husband's leg, causing it to bubble in white foam.
"Ma'am," Hayat's head lifted to one of the uniformed men who spoke, "You're going to be all right. We're not here to hurt you; we're here to help." His whiskey smooth voice was gentle and humane. The tones in which he spoke were comforting. One of his military colleagues approached from besides her, gently draping a medical blanket over her body, covering her exposed breast. She felt a bit of pride that they didn't look upon her exposed skin. Hayat allowed the man to cover her, then drew her daughter back to her chest, keeping her close.
The first soldier's message was scrolled upon a piece of parchment. He passed it to the frightened woman who lifted her free hand from under Fareeza's legs to take it. Her eyes lifted to him for a moment, drinking in his clean shaven visage then lowering to gaze upon the Iraqi script written across the page.
It said, "We're here to help. You're safe now. Your safety is the priority of the United States of America. You are now Free." Her fears were alleviated and panic began to leave her heart. She wasn't sure why she could trust these men and women who stood before her. She was still afraid but at the same time, she knew she would be safe.
Beyond the medic, looking over her shoulder was a quiet soldier in his gear. Behind a pair of black sunglasses, designed to reduce the glare in a combat situation, his eyes flitted about the area, staying ever vigilant. Nervous or otherwise, the young soldier of twenty-four years in age, continued to glance around, furtively. His ears perked each time distant gunfire was heard. But for now, another family was safe and that was all that mattered...