I am a Cast-lead war survivor. And, a Hurricane Sandy survivor, so-to-speak! Both devastating disasters seemed, to me, eerily similar in a way or another; however, the former is Israel man-made in Gaza and the latter is nature-made in America. Both miraculously left the area where I happened to live unscathed, or rather untouched. As things always seem worse from afar, even much worse to those who know no geography, me included, I have spent three days in a row comforting the panicking friends and the distraught parents who couldn’t stop calling/texting me right after they’d learned about the Superstrom Sandy hitting New York City. “Wallahi I am safe,” I pleaded, the same way I did during the 23 days of Gaza war.
My mom has had me more worried about her than about myself. Neither telling the truth nor telling lies could reassure her about me being safe and sound. “I am not in NYC mom; I’m in Clinton,” I begged. “So? Where’s this Clinton?” She managed to stifle a sob. “It’s hmmm in the east no no no north.. listen I don’t know really,” I knew I was in trouble. “Did you say east? Yes you did! Obama said the storm hitting East!” She, panicking! “No, I didn’t. He did? God, since when have you started watching the news?” I, very exhausted. “Since always.” My mom seemed inconsolable.
I hung up very sure she’d call again in a few. The next she called, I, about to go home, had to run back to the building before I could pick up the phone because outdoors sounded too windy and rainy and she could have a heart attack if she felt that through the call. “Mom, can you feel the silence! Very quite in here, very calm. Not even a light breeze is blowing.” I wasn’t lying! The building was so quite that one could have heard a pin drop since everyone but me was already home. That night, I drifted into sleep the moment I lay in bed, too tired to think of recharging my cellphone battery. As for my mom’s reaction when she couldn’t reach me, I’ll leave that to your imagination.
The very next day, as it seemed as though I was the only one lived/left in the United States of America, my mother woke up (assuming she’d slept) very obsessed with the word “people”! She: “Are you with people?” I: “I am.” She: “Sure?” I: “Yes I swear. Want me to send photos of people?” She: “No, but I know you don’t like people”. I: “Wha.? Who… I LOVE people!” She: “Okay not my concern now, please always stay with people. The news says the storm is moving over and if coming, don’t stay alone.” I, half-jokingly: “but if the storm is gonna hit me, why would it hit innocent people with me.” She, seriously furious: “Fidaa, DON’T play with my nerves (the Arabic version of don’t-mess-with-me.) I, resignedly: “Sorry. Just wanted to show you I love people.”
The next morning, I woke up to a message from her advising me to dress warmly today because it would be very cold and rainy. So, my mom is now a forecaster! Only in two days, Sandy made my mom a weather expert. How could she fear Sandy when even the word “sandy” doesn’t sound threatening at all. Thankfully, my mom seemed she finally realized that I am far from NYC and that Clinton is the safest place I’d have ever been to. When I was little, never did I ever doubt my mother’s geographical knowledge as she was very skillful at drawing maps for my geography class.
In Gaza, my house is located in a life-threatening area. During Gaza war, my house was this close to be among the rubble. I can still recall my dad scurrying around in panic, vowing out loud to sell the house each time Israel bombs something nearby or assassinates someone living close by. Israel did bomb a hospital, a mosque and other houses. Four years elapsed and no wonder my dad hasn’t yet sold the house! Who on earth would buy such an insecure, albeit beautiful, house. Not a sentient being would! Here, I cannot be safer. I pray for the people of the US to be safe as I know what it means to witness a harrowing catastrophe and to experience a terrible ordeal. Many are now in Gaza’s shoes, if only for a while.