Scene of ramming attack near Jerusalem's Chords Bridge.
(photo credit: JOSH DELL)
En route to a doctor’s appointment in Har Nof on the number 74 bus, we passed the Bridge of Strings at the entrance to Jerusalem and moved on to Herzl Boulevard. As I attempted to ring the doctor to say I was going to be a few minutes late, all seemed normal.
Suddenly, we heard a series of gunshots. En masse, everyone rushed to the windows to see what had happened. Though a mass of bodies blocked my way, I hurried toward the bus door as those next to me shouted to the driver to open them.
Coming from Britain, a country where it is rare to see a gun in public, if at all, I struggled to believe that what I had heard was actually the sound of gunfire. In shock, I turned to the man next to me to ask if that was the sound I’d heard. “Whatever it was, I’m pretty sure they’re dead now”, he responded.
When the doors eventually opened, we were finally able to see the carnage that lay on the other side of the road.
A white Mazda had rammed into a bus stop, running over a fire hydrant in the process and leaving water streaming underneath the car and around the bus stop. The injured lay scattered on the sidewalk, some being treated by first responders who had managed to reach the scene already, others by civilians doing whatever they could. One man appeared to have attempted to stem a victim’s bleeding by tying a sweater around them.
On the driver’s side of the car, a policeman was standing with his gun pointed at the lifeless body of the driver within. The gunshots we had heard were presumably those that neutralized the driver in the throes of the terrorist attack.
Having only been based in Israel for a few months, my British sense of order and decorum initially left me frozen. Suddenly, it hit me that I had witnessed a terrorist in action, and as an active journalist it was my duty to somehow document what I was seeing in order for as many people as possible to understand what happened.
I sprang into action, ringing my editor to say I was at the site of the attack. I captured as much footage as I could, all the while attempting to deal with the events unfolding around me.
It is difficult to sufficiently convey what it is to be a part of the first group of people at the scene of a terrorist attack. Without the area cordoned off until a good five minutes after the attack had taken place, we were able to see the devastating range of emotion engendered by the act of terrorism.
The majority of the growing mass of people were attempting to capture what had taken place on their phones, with many scrambling to get as close as they could to the bus stop.
Others simply broke down into tears spontaneously, devastated by what they were seeing.
The terrorist’s car was eventually moved further down the street, away from the bus stop.
The move changed the locale into one that appeared positively apocalyptic. The damaged hydrant suddenly began to explosively spray water some 9 meters high, as people continued to gather around the bus stop.
As the water persisted to gush, the shouts of “Zuz, zuz!” (Move, move) grew and the area began to be cordoned off.
Returning to The Jerusalem Post offices, I remained struck by one thing in particular.
Though they had no connection with what had taken place or to the victims of the attack, many of those standing next to the site nevertheless remained in floods of tears.
Even an hour later, teary faces continued to stream out of Herzl Blvd; the site of the attack may have been cordoned off, but there was no distance from the fresh memories that will likely linger for a long time.