Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiriyah_shelter_bombing
Dedicated to the Memory of L.A.S. (For full post, scroll down to the Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 post in the link)
“…The sirens would begin shrieking- the women and children would pause in the midst of eating or scolding, say a brief prayer in their heart and worry about their loved ones above the ground- the men who refused to remain inside of the shelter in order to make room for their wives and kids.
The bombs fell hard and fast at around 4 a.m. The first smart bomb went through the ventilation, through the first floor of the shelter- leaving a gaping hole- and to the bottom ‘basement’ of the shelter where there were water tanks and propane tanks for heating water and food. The second missile came immediately after and finished off what the first missile missed. The doors of the advanced shelter immediately shut automatically- locking over 400 women and children inside.
It turned from a shelter into an inferno; explosions and fire rose from the lower level up to the level that held the women and children and the water rose with it, boiling and simmering. Those who did not burn to death immediately or die of the impact of the explosions, boiled to death or were steamed in the 900+ º F heat.
We woke in the morning to see the horrors on the news. We watched as the Iraqi rescue workers walked inside of the shelter and came out crying and screaming- dragging out bodies so charred, they didn’t look human. We saw the people in the area- men, women and children- clinging to the fence surrounding the shelter and screaming with terror; calling out name after name… searching for a familiar face in the middle of the horror.
The bodies were laid out one beside the other- all the same size- shrunk with heat and charred beyond recognition. Some were in the fetal position, curled up, as if trying to escape within themselves. Others were stretched out and rigid, like the victims were trying to reach out a hand to save a loved one or reach for safety. Most remained unrecognizable to their families- only the size and fragments of clothing or jewelry indicating the gender and the general age.
She was a retired schoolteacher who quit after the Amiriyah bombing. She had no thoughts of quitting but after schools resumed in April of 1991, she went on the first day to greet her class of 2nd graders. She walked into the classroom and found only 11 of her 23 students. “I thought they had decided not to come…” I remember her saying to my mother in hushed tones, later that year,”… but when I took attendance, they told me the rest of the children had died in the shelter…” She quit soon after that because she claimed her heart had broken that day and she couldn’t look at the children anymore without remembering the tragedy. …
My mother’s friend shook her head sadly, “They tried, but she just refuses to leave. She has been taking care of the place since the rescue teams finished cleaning it out… she lost 8 of her children here.” I was horrified with that fact as the woman approached us. Her face was stern, yet gentle- like that of a school principal or… like that of a mother of 8 children. She shook hands with us and took us around to see the shelter. This is where we were. This is where the missiles came in… this is where the water rose up to… this is where the people stuck to the walls.
Her voice was strong and solid in Arabic. We didn’t know what to answer. She continued to tell us how she had been in the shelter with 8 of her 9 children and how she had left minutes before the missiles hit to get some food and a change of clothes for one of the toddlers. She was in the house when the missiles struck and her first thoughts were, “Thank God the kids are in the shelter…” When she ran back to the shelter from her house across the street, she found it had been struck and the horror had begun. She had watched the corpses dragged out for days and days and refused to believe they were all gone for months after. She hadn’t left the shelter since- it had become her home.
She pointed to the vague ghosts of bodies stuck to the concrete on the walls and ground and the worst one to look at was that of a mother, holding a child to her breast, like she was trying to protect it or save it. “That should have been me…” the woman who lost her children said and we didn’t know what to answer.
It was then that I knew that the place was indeed ‘maskoon’ or haunted… since February 13, 1991 it has been haunted by the living who were cursed with their own survival.