“Five hundred people died here,” our young
translator said, pointing out a half-mile stretch of road as our
Christian Peacemaker Teams’ delegation traveled by car to a Baghdad,
Iraq, electric plant.
Our translator, whom I’ll call Abed (actual name withheld for security reasons), described how a car bomb struck as people waited to sign up for the Iraqi army.
When we passed a junk yard, Abed spoke again: “That vehicle was used in a car bombing. The second car? It was nearby, not the attack vehicle. You learn to distinguish such things here.”
Later when we saw helicopters hovering, Abed said: “Do you see how those Apaches are pointing at an angle? That means there is trouble. But if the helicopters are Blackhawks, those are used in rescue operations.”
Abed’s words stayed with me longer than the facts and figures rattled off by the electric plant manager that day. I tried to imagine what it must be like to live in a city where how to interpret bomb damage to a car or figure out a helicopter’s purpose is common knowledge.
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