Childhood Memory from Iraq

My uncle, his wife, my cousins, and I were all scattered around playing cards, chess, and backgammon, as the flickering candle lights painted the walls of his dark bedroom. I was sitting on the bed and about to roll the dice when a thunderous sound swept over me and pushed me flying off the bed and tumbling into the ground like a crumbled piece of paper.

As I collected myself while trying to get back on my feet, I felt like everything was moving. A sense of chaos took over the whole place and before I could focus my mind, I heard my uncle’s nervous voice calling out “Is everyone okay?” A moment went by and everyone got up and ran outside.

The sky was scattered with black clouds that looked like smoke. The sidewalks were filled with oily and murky water that metallic colors swirling on its shiny surface. Everyone was running toward the smoke, including our family. I was not sure what was happening but I felt a sense of fear and excitement rushing through my whole body as I ran alongside my cousins and hundreds of other people.

The smoke was rising from a shopping plaza that housed an arcade where my little cousin and I always played. There were all kinds of businesses, including a grocery store, a fabric store, a mechanic shop, and various others. However, there was one store in particular where everyone gathered — the kitchen supply store! It was full of pans, pots and all kinds of intricate China plates. The store’s metal gate popped out into a balloon shape and dust flew through its metal mesh like white flour.

The shop owner was standing in front of his store witnessing the disaster, wailing and screaming. As the dust settled on the ground and visibility inside the store got better, we realized there was a large unexploded cruise missile leaning on one of the walls, pinned under the rubble of boxes, pots, and other random objects. As the crowd cried out in fear and began to flee for their lives, I stood there with my eyes wide open looking at China plates that stood unshaken on their shelves facing the chaos. Unbreakable!

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