More than a house was destroyed

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Monday, June 02, 2003 at 11:43AM :

More than a house was destroyed
Mary Trotochaud, American Friends Service Committee

31 May 2003

Baghdad holds many secrets. From the street, you would not know that this home, in the Jadrea district, had been affected by the war. It's a house of some means, elegant but simple. As you enter, however, the physical signs -- deep cracks in the ceilings, walls, and floors -- begin to tell the story of what happened. When you reach the back of the house, you can go no further. Where a second house once stood, there is only rubble.

The family compound is common in Iraq. Children build homes next to their parents as the extended family grows. In the house facing the street, lived Rudha and Atimad. Rudha is a tall and dignified man; his wife Atimad is veiled and stoic. Their faces are etched in deep sorrow. Their friends say: "They are the kindest people we know, very generous, always helping the poor. They do not distinguish between Christians and Muslims."

Rudha and Atimad were blessed. They had six daughters and one son, Zaid, who lived in the second house with his wife Rana and their two children. Zaid, finding no work as an engineer, had joined his father on the family farm. He built his home behind his parents' and joined the two households with a bridge.

Aiming for Saddam

Atimad leaves her visitor for a moment and returns with a beautiful, four-month-old baby girl, gold bracelets adorning her wrists and ankles. This is her granddaughter Deena, the daughter of Zaid and Rana. Grandfather Rudha haltingly tells the story of his family and their two homes, his voice still full of disbelief.

On the evening of April 7, two days before coalition troops entered Baghdad, Atimad wanted to visit at her son's house. Earlier in day, the family had decided it was safe enough to return to their house from the front house where they had been staying, and she missed them and wanted to say goodnight. But Rudha wanted to watch the end of the news, so Atimad waited for her husband to join her.

At 10:15, two missiles -- intended for a house where the United States suspected that Saddam was staying -- hit their son's house and leveled it. The older couple frantically shouted for help, but the neighbors were too afraid to come out of their homes. It was two days before heavy equipment could be brought in to uncover the bodies.

One tiny survivor

Under the rubble were the remains of Zaid and Rana, their daughter Mena, age 3, Zaid's sisters Zahid and Adhadra, and his aunt Mulkia Jaber. Only Deena survived. Miraculously, the force of the explosion had thrown the baby away from the house. She was found by the neighbors the following morning, lying 25 meters away in a pool of water. Deena suffered a broken arm and leg and shrapnel in her head.

The grandparents wonder aloud: "How will they survive?" Rudha is too old to tend the fields now. The fields had supported them. What will he do without his son's help? Their home is too dangerous to live in, and their money is buried under the rubble of their son's house. Will the Americans help them? And who will raise this miracle child?

"We are farmers, that is all," explains Rudha. "We had nothing to do with the Ba'ath party, nothing to do with Saddam. I hold no ill feelings for anyone, not even the Americans. But there is no improvement, no security, nothing is better.

Atimad rocks the baby as Rudha says in despair: "We are good people. Why did this happen to us? My son is gone; my daughters are gone. Look at this little one. She has no father and mother. What will her future be?"

-- Sadie
-- signature .

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