It was a Tuesday morning like any other. Little did 16-year-old Samer know that his life was about to change forever.
He got dressed for school and went downstairs. It was a familiar sight.Everyday, as he climbed down those stairs, he could see his mother preparing breakfast in the kitchen and his baby sister playing with her stuffed blue panda.
School was a few blocks away from home. Even as he walked towards his school, Samer could see his house, the largest one on the street.
He’d heard about a civil war going on in the country. His family lived in one of the safest cities and although he was assured by his parents that they were safe, deep down, he was scared. The sight of the large white house, visible from the window of his classroom, calmed him.
That fateful Tuesday afternoon, Samer looked out the window and saw his house. Moments later, all he could see was a fiery eruption of light. The explosion was followed by an overwhelming blast of sound. A mushroom cloud of fire rose into the sky. He didn’t realize what had happened until it was over and as soon as he did, his world came crashing down. Even as the teacher signaled everyone to calm down, Samer rushed out of his classroom.
The road which once led him home from school was covered in dust and debris. The acrid smoke irritated his eyes and blurred his vision and the smell of burnt flesh made him feel nauseated. Although people were shrieking in panic and crying , a deafening silence engulfed Samer. He was hoping against hope that they weren’t at home, that they were somehow given a warning and they made it out in time or his mother took his sister for a stroll in the park.
Tears came rolling down his cheeks as he ran into his father’s arms, who had rushed from his clinic as soon as heard about the blast. Samer couldn’t imagine what he would’ve done had his father also stayed at home that day. They saw a woman’s body being carried out of the rubble. What he saw next confirmed his worst fears. In the woman’s hand was what once used to be a stuffed blue panda.
As a child, Samer had recurring nightmares. His parents told him that if he remembered that he could always wake up from them, they were nothing to be afraid of. As an imaginative 7-year-old boy, he always felt that there was a nightmare waiting for him, one that he wouldn’t be able to wake up from. This was it. The house he grew up in, was reduced to rubble. His mother’s beautiful face was injured beyond recognition. His baby sister, who spoke her first word a few weeks ago, didn’t even live to learn her brother’s name. One explosion robbed them of everything.
Father and son stood holding hands, not knowing that in a few days they would travel miles away to another country, not knowing that once there, they would be looked at as a threat rather than as victims, not knowing that they’ve lost not only their past, but also their future.
Somewhere above the stars, a little hand clutched a stuffed blue panda and for the first time, the child said , ‘Samer’.