If You Asked Me Today About That Yesterday, One Year Ago ...

I started writing this post at 1:00 a.m. today, just another Wednesday here in Doha.  

May 29, 2013.

I started writing it today because I couldn't bring myself to write it yesterday.

Even today, I had to put it aside.  

I couldn't 'not' write it ...  and yet I couldn't quite 'write' it.  

I felt I had no 'right' to write it.  Maybe because I didn't own the grief.  Yet I shared in the grief.  We all did.  All of us, this nation of expats.

It's now 11:35 p.m.  And I had to write it.

But please know that I couldn't write it right.  Because the whole story is just too wrong.

If you asked me today what I felt just yesterday, I would answer you this ...

"Grateful"

  • Grateful that I was able to spend the morning shopping for party favors for my daughter's "fake" birthday (since her birthday is mid-July, when all expats and their kids are gone, no one is ever around for the actual 'day', so we're celebrating in May).
  • Grateful that my daughter got to spend the afternoon at her "first friend's" birthday party, laughing and dancing, and swimming and eating cake, and just being a seven-year-old.
  • Grateful that Smilin' Vic walked through that door after a day's work and that both Kiddo and me were here to hug him tight.
  • Grateful that I was able to spend the evening talking and sharing with fellow expat friends.

Grateful because I am one lucky parent and expat.  

But I didn't start writing this post because I was grateful.  

I started writing it because I was

sad, mad, insane, grief-struck, guilty, angry, confused, frustrated, powerless, indignant, fearful, crazy, distrustful, ashamed.

I started writing because I couldn't shake the urge to cry; I started writing because I didn't feel like I was the one with the right to cry.  I started writing because today there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE I COULD DO.

Because on that yesterday, just a short year ago, ...

it seems like only yesterday ...

I was at work when I got the news that a fire had broken out at a nearby mall, where my daughter's "first friend's" birthday party was to be held.  The mall was evacuated, all activities were cancelled, but the public was assured that all was well.

Shortly after, the rumors began circulating that all was not well.  

But surely it was all rumor and conjecture ...

My best friend, the "first friend's" mom, was the first to inform me that all was most definitely NOT well.  Lives, not flames, had been extinguished in the fire on that fateful day, that yesterday, one year ago.  Nineteen in all.  Thirteen children among them.  Precious souls, each and every one.

It most certainly couldn't be true.  I hung up the phone on my friend that night.  Told her that we couldn't spread false rumors.  I simply couldn't conceive that what she was saying was true.  We'd been told IT WAS ALL OK!  

And then I checked online.  And misguidedly clicked on a YouTube link.

And saw an image I will never be able to erase from my mind.  Not if I live to be one thousand years old.  

The image of a seven-year-old girl being carried out lifeless.  

She could well have been mine.  

If you were an expat parent in Doha prior to May 28, 2012, chances are you had left your child in the play area in that mall where this beautiful, beautiful child drew her last breath.  

You had left them there for a birthday party, or to enjoy a peaceful hour of kid-free shopping, or just because the kids so loved it there.  They loved the soft play area, they loved the staff, they loved the fun and the giggles.  They felt safe there...

That beautiful seven-year-old girl.  She, and all the 'mall' children, and those who stayed with them, and those who tried to save them, are forever engraved in my mind.

On that yesterday, one year ago, too many Doha expat families grieved.  On that yesterday, one year ago, an entire nation of expats grieved.  

And yesterday, the grieving continued.  Publicly for some, privately for others, but all of us, without a shadow of a doubt, at some point yesterday, remembered that day, one year ago.  And then, yesterday, we carried on.  

But that yesterday will forever be today.  For the parents, for the loved ones, and for this nation of expats ...  

May 28, 2012

is forever etched in our minds.

Children, spouses, parents, friends and the misguided illusion of safety were taken from us that day, that yesterday, one year ago.  

My heart goes out to all the families and loved ones today.  May you all find the strength today to survive that yesterday, one year ago.

I pray you know that because of that yesterday, one year ago, a nation of expats will forever feel guilty about feeling grateful today.

I pray you know that a nation of expats are with you in spirit, supporting you, struggling to make sure that that yesterday, one year ago, never becomes someone else's tomorrow.

I pray that you know that we all realize your child could have been our child.  Your children could have been our children.  And as we grieve for you and your loss, we feel horribly, horribly ashamed and guilty that we are grateful that our children were not there on that yesterday, one year ago.  We all know they could well have been.  

I pray that you let us carry the shame and the guilt.  Completely.  Let us at least carry that.  I pray that you relinquish the guilt forever, and leave yourself that space solely to grieve that yesterday, one year ago.  

That yesterday, one year ago, has become today, tomorrow, and forever for all the families who lost their precious, precious loved ones in that fire at the mall where we all left our smiling, happy children.

I pray I have not hurt or offended with this post.  But I'm allowing myself to be grateful today, and I'm accepting that I feel ashamed about it.  I'm allowing myself to grieve today, for that yesterday, one year ago, and I'm accepting that I feel guilty about it.  Because I don't really have the right to grieve, do I?  Or do I?

The fact remains that if you ask me today about that yesterday, one year ago, all I can say is this ...

"I grieve..."

N.B.  The words below are not mine, but I thought they conveyed really well the thoughts shared by many fellow expats yesterday.  We cannot forget, and every day we are reminded.  Please know that we remember.  The words were retrieved at http://www.memorieshonored.com/?page=non-denominationalprayers

We Remember You

At the rising of the sun, and its going down,
we remember you.
At the blowing of the wind, and in the chill of winter,
we remember you.
At the opening of the buds, and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember you.
At the blueness of the skies, and in the warmth of summer,
we remember you.
At the rustling of the leaves, and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember you.
At the beginning of the year, and when it ends,
we remember you.
As long as we live,  you shall live too will;

for you are now a part of us, as we remember you.

ASD - Show of Compassion - May 31, 2011 (teachers and parents of the American School of Doha encircle students in a moment of silence for the lives lost and those who lost loved ones in the May 28, 2012 fire)

ASD - Show of Compassion - May 31, 2011

(teachers and parents of the American School of Doha encircle students in a moment of silence for the lives lost and those who lost loved ones in the May 28, 2012 fire)