When I was in high school, I knew a girl named Reem Dah. She was a kind, sweet, smiling type of person. One morning when I rode the bus, my friend and bus mate, Rana, told me the shocking news. A bus driver had lost control of his bus yesterday and rammed into Reem’s family car. Her mother, father and four year old sister sitting in the front had all been killed. In a moment. In a heartbeat. Just like that.
Reem and her two other sisters were badly injured and taken to the hospital for surgeries and therapy. When I visited them in the hospital, I did not know if they knew the tragic news. I never did find out when Reem found out the sad truth. And we never saw her again. She was taken from the hospital back to her country, to her extended relatives’ care.
When I was living in Baghdad recently, I experienced, and continue to experience the same tragic agony for another family I met, my neighbors. One day my neighbors had two grown sons and one son-in-law; all newly married, two happily expecting their first borns, and one unknowingly expecting his second born. Within minutes their family heard of the kidnapping. The Kidnapping. The kidnapping that robbed them within minutes of their three young men. Robbed three new brides of their husbands. Robbed one old man and his wife of their sons. Robbed three unborn children of their fathers. Robbed one living toddler of his father. In one fell swoop these three young men were taken from their computer business by unknown, masked men. Two years later, there has been no word of these men. Two years later, six families directly related to these men hold a small, inextinguishable hope that they are alive, somewhere out there. Two years later, the chapter book stays open, waiting for an end.
And so it is with the Palestinian crisis unfolding in Gaza today. One family lost five (FIVE!) young daughters in one minute. One family lost NINE children AND their parents in a one ton bombing. One man cried over the extinguishing of his THREE young children and their mother. In one moment. Just like that.
And so the sadness rocks deep in my heart. How can I ever fathom what it would be like for me to lose all my children and my loving husband in one fell swoop? How can I ever imagine the sadness that would engulf my world if I were to lose three of my dearest siblings in one sudden crash? How can I imagine what it would be like to lose my sister who makes me laugh, my sister who makes me confide, my sister who makes me proud, my brother who makes me dream?!
At the end of the day, there’s little that we can do. But we must continue to have faith in Allah’s mercy, to thank Him for, not the little things in life, but the big things in life, the things that are right in front of us that we take for granted every day. And more importantly, we have to feel for these people who have lost so much, put ourselves in their shoes, and never forget their story. For if we forget their story, we lose a part of our humanity, our tender-heartedness, our brotherhood.
O Allah, give us mercy and give us strength. Make us steadfast and do not test us with that which we cannot endure.
Fatima Abdallah is a dedicated mother, sister, daughter, and MAS youth worker. After spending several years in Cairo and post-Saddam Baghdad, she now lives in Virginia with her two daughters, ages 2 and 3.