Monday, April 25, 2005

A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

It was a gorgeous summer night and a slight breeze provided the needed escape from the heat. We were out in the garden behind our office, waiting for dinner to be served. It was a special occasion, as one of my American colleagues wanted to bring a piece of home to Iraq. She is Jewish and as part of Passover, she decided to have a seder ceremony and included some of our Iraqi friends. She told ancient stories of oppression and liberation. We had roasted lamb and everyone’s glass of red wine was continually topped off. It was definitely a unique experience in Iraq and it made me feel hopeful that this kind of event could take place in an Arab, Muslim country.

Then I got a call from my husband. After a few minutes of catching up with each other, he told me the news. A good friend of his, his former squad leader, was shot in the neck by sniper fire on Sunday evening. He was stabilized enough that he could be flown to Germany for further treatment. My husband was with him when he was shot as they were all on patrol together. Just before the sniper fire, my husband’s friend was talking to him about his stepdaughter’s birthday party. He also has a small son, who is a toddler. His wife was told the news through a phone call and she was making arrangements to fly to Germany.

The last two weeks have not been good in all of Iraq: more than 50 bodies found floating in the Tigris River, 19 bodies found in a stadium in Haditha, 11 dead as a helicopter is shot down, explosions in Tikrit, Basra, Baghdad, an Associated Press cameraman killed in Mosul. One foreigner I know who has been working in Iraq for a long time keeps talking about the inevitable civil war.

My husband called me this morning before he went out on patrol because he knew I needed to hear from him, and I think he wanted to hear a friendly voice, too. But what also provided me with comfort was my Iraqi friends who, after hearing the news of my husband’s friend, told me they were there for me if I needed anything. They also expressed disgust at the recent violence and one of my Iraqi friends, who is not religious, said he would pray for my husband’s friend. I guess we all get by with a little help from our friends.