Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Bombing

First--I have been trying to stop by all of the blogs who have been recommending me to their readers and say "thanks". In case I missed any....Thank you!!!! I have been completely amazed/gratified at the response I have been getting. Had I known that blogging this would be this rewarding, I would have done this a couple years ago.
Okay, and now to the gore. :)

I really and truly do not have any dramatic memories of the instant of the blast. I did not notice anything unusual. The moment before the bombing I was standing at the bus stop, watching for my bus and worrying that I missed the last one before Shabbat and would have to waste 20 shekels on a cab. My next conscious moment I was on the ground, looking at the gore around me and at my bloody arm and thinking, “Oh, I was in a suicide bombing”. The second in between the conscious moments was a sort of clap-think of it as the physical manifestation of jumping across a few seconds. If you have ever received a blow to the head and blacked out, you probably know what I mean. One moment you are in A, the next moment you are in Z, and the intervening letters have been bypassed.

I was quite calm and in no real pain. I prayed, but without panic. “G-d, I do not care about anything else, just let me live”. My prayer notwithstanding, I did not perceive my condition as being that serious. I checked my limbs to confirm that all of them were there and ran my tongue over my teeth for any gone missing. None had. I determined, probably on the basis that I did not feel pain, that I was not suffering from internal injuries. Thus reassured, my major concerns were:

1) Keeping myself propped up on one arm because that meant that I was alive,
2) Retrieving the keys that had fallen out of my backpack and were lying on the ground in front of me,
3) That something was wrong with my eye and that the doctors would remove it and
4) That pain was bound to come sooner or later, and I would rather be unconscious for that part.

When the paramedic arrived, he had me lay down on my back. I followed instructions, though not before I instructed him to please put my keys back in my knapsack as I was going to need them. He did so. He then proceeded to wrap something around my head and check my body for injuries. More paramedics arrived, and they moved me onto a stretcher. They asked me my name. 'Gila Weiss', I told them. I asked them to please remember to bring my bag. I told them not to take my eye away from me. I believe I repeated each comment multiple times. My persistence notwithstanding, and unbeknownst to me, my bag containing all of my identification and emergency contact information was left at the scene due to security concerns. To make matters even worse, my speech was somewhat garbled due to injuries to my jaw and my name was understood as "Hila". To add insult to injury, the paramedics received the impression that I was from New York (fighting words to a Washingtonian). In any event, this combination of errors would result in my remaining unidentified for two days, until my friends managed to track me down.

Sans name, location or identification cards, I was loaded onto an ambulance. I caught phrases from the air. “Hadassah Ein Kerem”. Matzav beinuni, moderate condition. I was relieved. I was moderately injured, and I was going to Hadassah Hospital. I am a former Hadassah Organization for Women group co-president, and a big believer in the hospital. So I was going to be okay. They kept on telling me: tishari itanu, stay with us. Unfortunately, I believe that it was about this time I decided that I would rather miss the rest of the process, and wake up once I was better. Please understand, it did occur to me that I might be facing my last moments on Earth, and that I had to stay awake to fight for my life, if need be. If I were to go to sleep, I might never wake up. On the other hand, I really wanted to be unconscious. For what it is worth, I have spoken with at least one other bombing victim who had the exact same reaction. Bombings are just the type of thing one would rather miss. The bliss of oblivion beat out heroics. I closed my eyes, stopped answering questions, and waited to become unconscious.

Unconsciousness did not come, and so I spent my time ignoring the paramedics’ appeals to please, please stay with them and thinking about how I was probably not going to make it to Galia’s for Shabbat dinner. It could not be helped. She would have to understand. When we arrived at the hospital, I opened my eyes. All sorts of medical personnel surrounded me. What is your name? Gila. Again, they heard Hila. I told them I was allergic to sulfa. And then…well…at last! the drugs and blessed unconsciousness took hold. I would remain in a drug induced coma for the next three days.

With no one knowing who I was.


Katrinayellow said...

if this was a novel I would be turning the pages madly, eager to get to the next bit. As it is the story of your real life and what happened to you, I feel bad for being so fascinated with all these details. but it is fascinating. I was at Mahane Yehuda the other day, looking at the bus stop (I don't know if its the same one) trying to imagine the scene. I only arrived here in 2005 so I have no idea what it must have been like to have been here during the bombings.

much rambling but the bottom line is please keep writing!

originality is dead, long live originality said...

I was going to say I'm fascinated by this, and I guess I did, but my thunder has been stolen. I was also going to say I feel a bit leery about it... covered. Let me then be the first to say (?) I have an admiration for you that is assuredly beyond reason and bordering on inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that you could function in Hebrew. I have been in Israel for 15 years, and my Hebrew is good, but in stressful situations it goes right out of my head and I revert to English.


american woman said...

Keep writing. It's amazing how the words flow from you. You are gifted.

alto artist said...

Another reader here who is so grateful that you're telling this story. Thank you, and please keep writing.


Anonymous said...

I've sent your blog to the few people I know in publishing. I have never before wanted something turned into a book, based on so few essays.

You, my dear, a writer.

Gila said...

Quick break from work (long day-busy season for us accountants) to respond:

Katherine--the bus stops were moved--they are now further away from the entrance. Yes, bombings and catastrophes in general are fascinating. I don't know why, but it just is.

Originality--ummm...yeah, I am not going to touch that. :)

WestBankMama--I have a gift with languages and always have. I am afraid I cannot really take credit for it; I was born with it. Suffice it to say that it has gone a long way towards easing the aliyah process. It also helped me during the whole bombing thing. The fact that my Hebrew was fluent when I was a very new olah made a great impression on the Israelis (aka--those at Bituach Leumi).

American Woman, Alto- thanks!

Leah-Actually, back when I was a senior in high school, my plan was to be a journalist. By the time I started college four years later (in itself a bit of a saga), I decided to go with accounting (paid more). But my "dream job" is still as a writer. :)

Okay--back to work....

Anonymous said...

Can you do 2 entries a week?

Gila said...

That actually was my plan--so far I have been going a bit faster than that. But I should stick to two; gives people a chance to read and gives me a chance to edit.


Peter said...

I'm new here. I got my dose of flying scrap metal, dirt and crap thirty-nine years ago next month.
Your scars will fade and eventually the worst will be the odd itches.
'Course it's easier for me, I already knew I'd never be half as purty as Momma wanted me to be.

Baila said...

keep going, Gila!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this - I lost a friend in a bus bombing nearly a dozen years ago, and I find it tremendously helpful to hear your experience of surviving. And thank god you didn't come away with a conscious memory of what happened or any sounds or physical pains from the immediate aftermath - as if what you've been going through since then isn't enough! Thank you again so much for writing this. Are you still living in Jerusalem? In the aftermath, did the bombing make you want to leave or stay? I'm living here and considering aliyah, and your description of your decision to make aliyah is also fascinating.

Gila said...

I am now living in Tel Aviv. The bombing did not affect my resolve to stay. Every place has its pluses and minuses--the threat of terror attacks is what we have here, but I can, and do, walk home by myself, in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, at three in the morning without fear.


Frum Jew in Recovery said...

I was wondering do you get together with people who went through this experience? I know there are such organizations for those who tragically lost a child or loved one to terror but as to one who was a survivor, are there such groups?

I congratulate you on such a very great blog start.

Gila said...

There are such groups. I avoid them. Like the proverbial plague.

Frum Jew in Recovery said...

I wonder if there is some thing you could get out that experience. Since you also posted regarding a horrible love lost experience just recently. I would love to see you getting to the Chupah after all you went through, you shouldn't have such crap happen imp.

Gila said...

Something I could get out of the experience you say? I have gotten lots out of the experience. I promise I will get to it, but that is a bit further along in the story....

As for the chuppah thing--first-an official request of everyone not to get into that line of commenting. It does more harm than good.

The truth is that I spent (well, okay, still spend) a fair amount of time saying "well-this and that bad thing happened to me, therefore I deserve this and that". Big, big waste of time. Time is better spent looking around and saying "hey--this is what happened to me and because of it, this and that good thing happened". If you cannot find anything good, stretch your definition of good and try again. If there is still nothing, make something good-force yourself to do something positive that is "inspired" by the bad thing. That way, if you get anything else, it is gravy.

And someday I will actually learn to do this on a regular basis. Nice theory though, isn't it? Very noble-sounding.

We all ask G-d for things, shidduchim included. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no. The answer is not necessarily connected to how good you are, bad you are or what other things you have gone through. Fair? I don't know, but, as we say here -cacha zeh--that is the way it is.


Israeli by Day said...

Very powerful. It's amazing how some of us react in traumatic situations.

I know this is on a totally different scale, but once I exploded a finger. Literally, a finger of mine was exploded from being crushed. I looked down, blood had shot all the way up to my shoulder when my hand was by my waist (laying down on my back), and it was 85% or so detached. You know what I thought?

"Well, looks like I'm not finishing my workout"

That's seriously what I thought!! No panic, no stress, no fear, just "damnit, that sucks."

You reminded me of that when you said you thougth "I won't be making it for Shabbat at ..."

Amazing what the human can deal with if we're strong.