Nov 10 2005

How do you tell a six year old

Published by at 4:02 am under Blogs,Personal

By Daoud Kuttab

The problem in our household after the triple bombing in Amman was how to tell our six year old daughter, Dina. The urgency of the problem was because the Jordanian government had called for a day of mourning the following day and schools were expected to be closed. Because she is so inquisitive we knew that once we tell Dina there was no school in the morning she will want to know why.
My wife Salam was also worried about Dina’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 am on Thursday morning, Dina came over our bedroom and was taken aback when we told her there is no school today. When she inquired we explained to her about the bombings and as expected she wanted to know how this could happen despite her nightly prayers for the safety of the city and country. Salam gave her an explanation about evil  and that seemed to put her at ease. Satisfied on the spiritual issue Dina’s mind was back on earthly matters. “Do these guys bomb houses,” she asked her mother worried that this could happen to our home. “No,” Salam assured her, “no homes will be bombed.” Happy with her mother’s reassurance, Dina called her best friend who happens to be her cousin Loawi and informed him empathically not to worry, our homes will not be the target of bombings.”

The reaction of Bishara my seventeen year old son since shortly after the explosion was much different. A veteran of the Palestinian intifada, this was the most exciting thing to happen to him ever since we moved to Jordan eight years ago. He had locked horns with my wife who in the shock of the attack didn’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 when I got the news was to 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 the both of them without any technical help were on the air with a repetition of the report of the explosion and the fact that 21 fatalaties had been confirmed. Our studio director and the rest of the journalists were stuck in traffic at different locations as the police had cordoned various areas especially near our radio station which is near the two major hotels that were attacked. 

Once I got home my wife was insistant in her refusal to allow Bishara or even myself to inquire what was happening near us. We wanted to see the Days Inn Hotel which is less than a kilometer from our house. When I failed to convince her I decided a different track, why don’t you come with us I proposed. 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 naturally closed by the police, but as in so many other cases the side roads are always accessible. We drove right up to the back parking lot of the Days Inn and Bishara and I quickly 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 were injured.

Walking right up to the front of the hotel I was able to confirm that the front of the hotel was intact but plenty of glass was on the street outside the hotel. Passers by talked about five Chinese persons were 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 saw and was about to leave when my son Bishara spotted a young man that was clearly in shock, when he assured us that he was an eyewitness I asked if he would talk on the radio, he agreed and described walking by the hotel when the explosion occurred. He saw the five Chinese-looking  persons on the ground and also repeated the same report about the decapitation of one of them. Speaking on the radio seemed to have helped him overcome his shock and Bishara stayed talking to him for a little afterwards trying to calm him down.

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 police man’s efforts  on air and finally gave in to him. Later she told me that she was walking by a police car which had the car radio very loud, the policeman was listening to was non other than our own reporter Mohammad Shamma on AmmanNet.

Our broadcast continued till past midnight and returned early in the morning with reading the list of the dead and injured from one of the local newspapers.  And  Dina assured of both spiritual and earthly affairs and with school being cancelled decided to occupied our television with her children’s program leaving the news junkies in the family to getting the updates of what was happening in Amman to the only real local radio, AmmanNet.

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