I left work yesterday a little bit early. I usually leave around 6:30, but I'd gone out at lunchtime to pick up a new backpack for our youngest (who is starting first grade today), and I'd wanted to make sure I was home before he went to bed so I could give it to him and help him pack up his school supplies.
During my ride home I noticed that there was an unusually large number of soldiers along the road, but assumed (correctly) that it was just because of the heightened state of alert in advance of the peace talks that were about to begin in Washington.
About two thirds of the way home I passed a string of army and civilian ambulances racing in the other direction with sirens blaring. Then several police cars screamed by... followed by another ambulance; this one a larger, mobile ICU.
Although the road I travel to and from work is relatively lightly traveled, the fact that it twists and winds up and down the rocky spine of the Judean hills means that there are occasionally spectacular wrecks. Seeing all those emergency vehicles streak by in the other direction, I naturally assumed I'd just missed an accident, and breathed a small sigh of relief into the inside of my helmet.
When I got home and parked my scooter, my wife met me outside the door. She looked ashen.
Apparently several of our friends and neighbors had phoned the house, and a little too casually asked if I was home from work yet. My wife's no idiot, and realized there had to be a reason so many people were suddenly interested in my whereabouts, so she went to the computer and clicked over to one of the Israeli news sites. And then another. And another.
Splashed over the top of all the major Israeli media sites was the news that there had been a terror attack - a shooting - on route 60 in the Hebron Hills (exactly the route I travel), and that there had been multiple fatalities. No other information was available at the time.
Most of our friends and neighbors know how I travel to and from work, and it is an unfortunate fact of life here that when there is a terror attack, people pick up their cell phones and start dialing; for no other reason except to hear a friend or loved one answer and say 'hello'.
I rarely turn off my cell phone, but I can't hear the ringer while I'm riding, so it sits ignored in my jacket pocket until I get where I'm going. When I checked later there were over 50 missed calls (including multiple attempts from my wife).
For the better part of twenty minutes my wife had been out of her mind with worry. And as she later related, seeing me walk through the door gave her emotional whiplash since her relief at seeing me was offset by guilt since our good fortune meant someone else was waiting at home for a loved one who would never arrive.
When I passed the site of the attack this morning on my way to work, soldiers and police were still swarming over the area. And a fireman stood by his truck using a hose to wash away some ominous stains from the pavement.
I'm still horrified by the idea that if I hadn't left a little early to bring our six year old son his new backpack for school... I can't even finish writing that thought. It leads to a very bad place.
[I sincerely hope this post will not be perceived as political by anyone. I think we can all agree that terrorism is inexcusable. Full stop. I was simply experiencing some survivor's guilt after a restless night and a surreal morning commute. And sharing this here has helped me start to move on.]
Last edited by Treppenwitz on Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:52 pm; edited 1 time in total