This is one letter I will not read to you after I finish writing. It’s too sad because it’s too senseless and I can’t explain senseless to you now; I don’t even have a proper explanation to soothe myself.
Remember the game of Jenga that we play? One wooden block carefully removed at a time, trying not to let the whole wooden tower collapse? Well, now I feel like if one more piece is removed from my structure, my faith that good will prevail in the world will come toppling down. Remaining positive at this moment in time is so, so hard.
A year ago today, people would screech to a stop, get out of their cars and would seat their children on top of a tank. Sometimes the soldier in the tank would carry the child and pose for a happy picture.
I wonder when people look through their numerous tank pictures and video clips captured on their phones… do they wear that same smile of nostalgia on their faces? I for one visited the picture of you standing in front of the tank in Tahrir, holding the Egyptian flag and looking highly uncomfortable. My eyes keep shifting to the soldier standing beside you and I wonder… was he one of the pawns used to kill and humiliate innocent civilians?
The chants on the streets have changed from “Down, down with Hosni Mubarak” to “Down, down with military rule!” The term “civil disobedience” has surfaced again since our 1919 revolution. Many people believe that the military wants to send a powerful message to those who dared stand against them: either us or chaos and bloodshed.
The result? Too horrific. Who writes the script that it’s okay to beat an elderly woman with a baton? Or to kick a woman repeatedly – sole of a shoe on bare skin – in the chest instead of covering her exposed upper body? Who writes the script that it’s okay to have no security protection in a heated soccer match and to seal shut exit doors? Who writes the script that it’s okay for a man to be killed then dismembered and burned right after he drops his wife at the airport? Or that a single mother gets shot twice in the head on her way to work at 7:00 in the morning? Who can come up with such a scenario?
Saad, the student who lost his brother a few weeks ago in the soccer match, came to school yesterday. I found myself running to him as soon as I spotted him in the hallway. I hugged him as hard and as long as I could without making him feel uncomfortable. I kept saying that I loved him so much. I observed him smiling, interacting, going to class. But will he ever be the same again? How does one compensate a brother? May Omar Mohsen’s soul rest with the angels.
Hany Loka, a parent at our school, was killed on his way back from the airport. Some of the teachers knew him personally. One teacher told me as her eyes watered that he was such a considerate man; how he helped her out without even being asked to. A friend of mine knew him as he was once her school mate. She said that he always wore a smile and was one of the fastest runners she had known. This man left behind three young girls. May his soul rest with the angels.
Nermine Khalil, another parent at our school, was shot twice in the head. Many of our teachers knew her personally. One teacher looked so pale, as if she was about to faint; she told me as her hands shook, “Her daughter is with my daughter in the same class. Nermine used to make sandwiches for her daughter every morning. Who will be making sandwiches for the girl now?” She began to break down how a simple, regular day would never be repeated again in this girl’s life. I saw a picture of Nermine Khalil on facebook. She and her daughter were standing side by side, smiling from their hearts, wearing matching black and white striped cardigans. How this picture hurts… May her soul rest with the angels.
Apart from the random murders, kids are being kidnapped. Two HSBC banks were robbed. Cars are being stolen in broad daylight. One of the things I loved most about Egypt was… I hate to use the word was… how safe the streets were at any time of day or night. Rape, kidnapping, torture… those weren’t things we’d think about when walking in the street past midnight.
Our lives have changed, now. Your dad and I sat with you a few days ago and went through all sorts of scenarios – if we ever got lost from each other, if a stranger approached you and told you that we were looking for you, etc. When I told you that if, for any reason, a stranger told you to go with him/her somewhere and tried to force you, you should scream and not be ashamed to do so. Your wide eyes started to water and you hid your head behind my back to conceal your tears.
Now, we don’t allow you to go to the supermarket on your own to get juice while we wait in the car; something we used to do so that you can feel a bit of independence. Now, I don’t allow you to open the car window beyond an inch, even though our A/C is busted and you are sweating in the back seat.
I always lock the car door – I usually do that anyway – but I find myself checking that it’s locked repeatedly, running my finger across the lock just to make sure.
I say a prayer before starting the ignition – I usually do that anyway – but I say it more often every time I find a truck slowing down in front of me and another truck closing in on me from behind.
My mind wanders every Monday, thinking whether or not it was the right decision to allow you to stay an extra hour in school for your paper mache club. Yesterday, while driving to pick you up from school, I saw an ambulance with its blaring siren going down the same street. I kept following it with my eyes and pleading, “Please don’t take a left… please don’t take a left… please don’t take a left!” It didn’t take a left. May God protect who the ambulance was going to pick up.
I’m writing this letter to document how this moment in time feels. How statistics you will read about in the future are about real people; names with faces; names with children; names with once regular lives.
May there be no more Jenga blocks removed. Please.
Your mentally exhausted mom, Rania