Anat Suisse believes that 30 seconds were all that stood between her and death on Wednesday when a rocket fell in the backyard of her Ashkelon home. The 17-year-old brown-haired teenager was watching television in the living room of her home, just a short distance from the sea, when a warning siren wailed overhead at 2:15 p.m.
She had just returned from a seminar up North and was alone in her house.
Immediately she raced into the small protected room in the basement one floor below, just off the waiting room of her mother’s medical clinic for children, which was closed that day.
“If I hadn’t done that, I do not know what would have happened, this saved my life,” she said.
Suisse estimates that she made it to safety within 30 seconds. When she didn’t hear an explosion, she thought to leave the shelter, and then a second siren sounded.
“It all happened [the rocket landing] in less than a minute,” Suisse said.
Five seconds after the second warning siren, she said, a rocket fell in the backyard of her house, shattering the French doors in the living room and kitchen, as well as the windows of mother’s clinic.
Each room was now filled with hundreds of pieces of jagged glass and trees were uprooted in the backyard.
“I heard a huge explosion and the door of the shelter flew open,” she said.
“Everything shook and I heard glass breaking and I realized that it [had fallen] here because it was so loud,” she said.
“I went outside and saw that everything was broken and ruined,” Suisse said, adding that she then called her parents to tell them what happened.
Then she walked out and into her mother’s clinic, which has drawings of teddy bears, cows and giraffes on its walls.
But instead of shelves filled with toys for the children to play with as they waited, stuffed animals were strewn about the room amidst the crushed pieces of glass. Debris filled her mother’s office.
The clinic is open three days a week, she said, but is closed on Wednesdays.
“At the moment when the rocket hit my mother was in the hospital so there was no one here,” Suisse said.
“This was a miracle. If there had been more people here, little kids, who knows what could have happened,” Suisse said.
“In the beginning I was really scared. I was panicked and crying. I was terrified to see what had happened to my house. We have lived her for 15 years. It was really hard, but then I realized that it was not important. What is important is that we are fine and nothing happened to my family,” Suisse said.
Right after the attack, her parents, her neighbors, firefighters and police arrived at the house, as did Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and his Norwegian counterpart Borge Brende, who were visiting the area.
The two diplomates surveyed damage inside the building and then went to speak with the dozens of journalists who had gathered outside.
But Liberman’s on-camera statements to the media were broken by a warning siren that sent him, Brende, Suisse and some 20 other people racing back into the Suisse home, over the crushed glass, and down to the same protected room that Suisse had stood in less than an hour beforehand.
Outside, the police and the journalists, who had no where to go, lay down on the sidewalk, the street and the dusty parking lot.
“What happened here shows the reality that we live in,” said Suisse. “It is not logical that children my age and children that are much younger, and older people, live in a situation where we regularly have only 30 seconds to save our lives, and if we live further south, there is even less time.”
“Sirens go off every day, in the morning and in the middle of the night, so that the fear is always there,” she said. “This situation has to end one way or the other, but it must end.”