It was the night of the Superbowl.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really care about football, but I don’t mind if anybody else does. Adrienne had another one of her Middle School Colds and I was sick as usual, so we watched a livestream liturgy instead of going to Mass before the kickoff and then she went to watch the game by herself. I did some writing with one tab open to Twitter, as usual. There were two teams in red. Taylor Swift and her entourage. People admiring the commercials and people complaining about the commercials. Praise for the halftime show with yet another celebrity I know nothing about. Festive and harmless.
That was when I saw the lights in the sky.
A video came across my newsfeed of bombs exploding somewhere: white lights bursting in a black sky, over a gray city.
This was purported to be a video of Rafah.
Rafah is where all the refugees were told to go, as Gaza was bombed into oblivion the past few months. 1.4 million refugees are said to be packed in there impossibly dense, trapped against the Egyptian border. Sure, there may be terrorists in Rafah, but there are also hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who don’t hate anyone and just want to go home. Netanyahu had been announcing plans to invade Rafah next, and ordered the refugees to leave. The whole world asked Netanyahu just where the refugees were supposed to go. President Biden warned him not to move forward without a “credible and executable” plan to evacuate them, but no one thought he’d listen.
Things being what they are on Twitter lately, I couldn’t be sure this was an actual video of Rafah. There are plenty of videos of other bombings, from other places in the world, being circulated by troll accounts just to make you angry. It’s not as though our world has a shortage of bombings to film. I started searching, comparing the video to other purported videos, checking the Arabic names that were all giving their accounts of the bombing. They all had that same video: white lightning bursting in the black sky, over a gray city.
Most everyone I could see on social media was still talking about the football game.
I saw a second video, one of the ground, somebody searching the site of the bombing and finding one gory foot. Well, that could also be a fake– or a video of someone else’s foot, from another bombing, somewhere else in the world.
There was a video of somebody– a child, perhaps, or a woman of about my height– covered in dust until she looked like a statue, struggling under a fallen slab of concrete.
There was another of a preschool-aged boy sitting on an examining table in a hospital, catatonic, trembling a little, blood spattered by his ear.
Most everybody was still talking about football. Someone said something about the country of Israel taking out a Super Bowl ad in support of itself, as if Israel were a soft drink or the latest Disney movie. I didn’t watch the ad. Robert F. Kennedy apparently had an ad as well, which people found in bad taste, but I didn’t watch that one either. Christopher Walken was in an ad for a luxury car.
Adrienne needed me for a bit, so I got up and helped find remedies for her cold before bed. I asked who was winning, not caring very much but wanting to make conversation.
I got her settled and went back to my search. Yes, some actual news sources were confirming, the IDF had bombed Rafah, the place where they’d kettled a million and a half civilians on purpose, at three o’clock on a Monday morning, saying they were going after “terror targets.” They’d also rescued two hostages in the process, somehow.
The casualties were said to be “dozens.”
People on social media were squealing about the game going into overtime.
I saw another video, of those “terror targets” wandering around in shock. A woman in a hijab, screaming. A girl with her hijab falling off, one eye covered in a bloody bandage. Another preschool-age boy with a spattered face, wandering listless, his eyes wide as saucers, gripping his mother’s hand.
Somebody won the Super Bowl just then.
My news feed was all full of rejoicing. There were photos of lovely music stars kissing handsome sports stars. President Biden posted a funny meme of himself with red eyes.
There was that video again: white lightning bursting in the black sky, over a gray city. The city going orange just for a second after every burst.
The rejoicing went on.
Maybe it will go on all night.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.