The problem in our household after the triple bombing in Amman on Wednesday night was what to tell our six-year-old daughter Dina. The Jordanian government had called for a day of mourning on Thursday, and schools were expected to be closed. We knew that once we told Dina there was no school she would want to know why.
My wife Salam was also worried about Dinaâ€™s reaction because every night as she puts her to sleep they pray, among other things, for the security of the city and the country. The night before, I had been made responsible for putting her to sleep, and the security of the city was part of her nightly prayer routine.
Sure enough, at 6:45 on Thursday morning, Dina came over to our bedroom and was taken aback when we told her there was no school. We explained about the bombings and as expected she wanted to know how such a thing could happen despite her nightly prayers.
Salam gave her an explanation about evil that seemed to put her at ease. Satisfied on the spiritual issue, Dinaâ€™s mind was back on earthly matters. â€œDo these guys bomb houses,â€ she asked her sister, worried that this could happen to our home. â€œNo,â€ Tania assured her, â€œno homes will be bombed.â€
Happy with her sisterâ€™s reassurance, Dina called her best friend, who happens to be her cousin Loawi, and informed him empathically not to worry: â€œOur homes will not be the target of bombings.â€
THE REACTION of Bishara, my 17-year-old son, was much different. A veteran of the first Palestinian intifada, this was the most exciting thing to happen to him since we moved to Jordan eight years ago. He had locked horns with my wife who, in the shock of the attack, didnâ€™t allow him to leave the house while I was away. I had been having a dinner with a group of Arab media activists in Al Tawheen restaurant, which was very crowded, when we got the news about the explosions. The first thing I did was contact Sameh our cleaning person who lives next to the radio station to ask him to open up the office and the studios. I also called our radio technician who lives near the radio station (which is also very close to Radisson SAS hotel) and some of the key staff of the radio station to tell them to go back to work.
AS I returned to our home in Al Rabbiyeh, the Itisalat circle was blocked by a police car and traffic was backed up. In the meantime, Sameh had opened the studio and found a newscaster who lives nearby and without any technical help they were on the air with a report of the explosion and the fact that fatalities had been confirmed. Our studio director and the rest of the journalists were stuck in traffic, as the police had cordoned various areas, especially near our radio station which is close to the two major hotels that were attacked.
ONCE I got home my wife was insistent that neither Bishara nor I explore what was happening near us. We wanted to see the Dayâ€™s Inn Hotel, which is less than a kilometer from our house. When I failed to convince her, I decided on a different track. â€œWhy donâ€™t you come with us?â€
Reluctantly, she agreed and we drove to the nearby hotel where just a few weeks earlier some of the guests I had brought for a workshop had stayed. The main roads were closed by police, but the side roads were accessible. We drove right up to the back parking lot of the Dayâ€™s Inn and Bishara and I got out and walked to the lot where some foreign tourists were standing. I spoke to a shocked white-haired tourist who assured me that none of the hotel guests had been injured.
Walking right up to the front of the hotel, I was able to confirm that the facade was intact but plenty of glass was on the street. Passersby talked about five Chinese people who had been killed, including one who was decapitated.
It took me a while to find an eyewitness. I called the studio and filed a quick report about what I had seen, and was about to leave when my son Bishara spotted a young man who was clearly in shock. He was an eyewitness, and I asked if he would talk on the radio. He agreed and described walking by the hotel when the blast occurred. He saw five Asian-looking people on the ground, andconfirmed the story about the decapitation of one of them. Speaking on the radio seemed to help him overcome his shock, and Bishara stayed on talking to him for a while afterwards.
IN ANOTHER part of town, Sawsan our feisty reporter was interviewing a family whose house overlooked the Radisson SAS when a police man walked in while she was on the air and demanded that she end the conversation. She reported the Jordanian policemanâ€™s efforts on air and finally gave in to him. Later she told me she was walking by a police car which had its radio on very loud aas the policeman listened to another of our reporters, Mohammad Shamma, on AmmanNet.
Our broadcast continued until past midnight and resumed early in the morning with a reading of the list of dead and injured from one of the local papers.
Meanwhile, Dina reassured on both spiritual and earthly affairs spent her day off watching childrenâ€™s programs, leaving the news junkies in the family to get their updates from the only real local radio, AmmanNet.
The writer is a regular Post columnist. The above is excerpted from his blog.