ramen over on the neener forums told a story about some events from yesterday. i’ll paraphrase; basically, on her way to work she noticed blood spatter on the sidewalk and then later in the day found out that someone had been shot and walked down the street where she was walking. the whole incident kinda creeped her out.
it got me to thinking about the time i spent doing humanitarian work in n. iraq and turkey back in 1991. i volunteered for relief work while i was still in uni. i had seen the television footage of the kurds in n. iraq and how they were starving. the us marines had gone in and set up security and started feeding them, but there was still much work to be done. i had it in my head that i was going to go there and help save the world.
what ended up happening was i helped build tent cities, helped feed the displaced peoples and was exposed to the atrocities that saddam had inflicted upon his people. during the time i was there, there was still quite a bit of clean up to do with sick that had died, casualties of saddams police squads, and casualties of the kurdish skirmishes that had started up. as a result, i would see dead bodies nearly every day, most of them civilians.
there is a very different emotion that is evoked when you witness a dead body. it’s one thing to see a family member in a casket, ready for burial. in those situations, they almost seem to be sleeping, and you think back on memories of that person. there is also that intimate knowledge that the person has died. almost like a subconscious understanding. when i would see a dead civilian, or stranger, it evoked a completely different set of emotions. i would grieve for them like i never had for a lost family member. i’m not sure what would trigger it…maybe it was that they died before they were able to return to their homes, or be re-united with their families. maybe it exposed to me the frailty of life.
at the time i was over there, i wasn’t close to my family at all. i think it re-ignited the desire for the closeness of family. i think it pulled out emotions of being homesick. i think i saw myself in those dead women, never again to see their parents or children. oh, that’s it. the lives cut short. the dead i had seen back home were old. they had lived full lives and i guess there was the expectation of death. there in iraq, these were people that had their lives still before them. they had yet to taste the joys of where thier lives would lead them. they had yet to taste the joys of life without oppression. that was another thing. they were experiencing a temporary freedom, with the UN forces still there, but they knew that it wouldn’t last long. the thought of those dead never having experienced anything other than a life of oppression grieved me.
i still have dreams about them sometimes. not nightmares like i thought i would have, but more of a detached dreaming about the events. i dream about the places, the events, some of the faces. but i don’t relive the emotions. sure, if i think back now, i can bring myself to tears if i talk about it, but i don’t dream myself back in those emotional situations.
it’s strange. as a child, living in a comfortable home, i never thought i would be exposed to such a reality. that sort of trauma was reserved for television…

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