My Sarah: The Story Of A Thousand Mothers

Updated: Jun 17

“Sarah! Come here, take cover!” I cried out to my daughter as the building across our home was bombed by Israeli warplanes, hearing her screams I pulled her close to my body, started singing her favorite lullaby in her ear, rocking her small body, after her father was killed in the protest massacre in 2018, it was just the two of us now.

The sirens started blaring again, they dropped another bomb on the building in front of us as if the first one didn’t do enough damage, my heart shattered when I realized my neighbors were the ones screaming in agony in the background, Sarah fell asleep in my arms, I laid her on the floor to see what they had done, I froze in fear to see another coming our way, in an instant I took my daughter in my arms and ran as fast as I could but it was too late, the ceiling came crashing down and I fell, the rubble fell on my entire body, my daughter thrown deep under the debris, my legs felt paralyzed and my arms numb.

Once I got over the shock, the pain kicked in, I felt the blood drip from underneath me, I cried out for help but words wouldn’t come out, I could hear my daughter crying in pain, I tried to move but it felt as if this heavy concrete will crush me, the more I tried to move the more I felt light-headed, I felt my daughter’s whimpering getting fainter and fainter but my eyes grew heavier by the second and then everything went black.

“Selma! Selma! Can you hear me?...” my ears rang but my eyes failed to flutter open, “Selma! We are coming! Hang in there” with all the force I had in me, I shook my head and forced my eyes to open, that one ray of sunshine peeping through the rubble was my only hope, I tried to move yet again but my arms and legs both gave away, I cried out in pain “Save my daughter first! Save her first… Please” “Can you hear something? Selma is that you?” “Yes! Please… Save my daughter first I beg you!” I croaked back, I saw two hands reach out to me, they felt the concrete and called for help.

They managed to pull me out, people rushed towards me, thanking God as they walked past me, they took me to an ambulance with two of our neighbors - my heart fell when I realized my Sarah wasn’t there, I called out to the people “Did you find my daughter? Did you find her?” I repeatedly asked, the people looked at each other and then they looked at me, suddenly I knew, every part of my body awoke in realization, they pulled out a small body from the rubble, the face was all dusty grey, the legs all twisted and the hair… the hair gave it away, those beautiful messy curls of hers.

At that moment, I forgot all the pain in my body, jumped out of the stretcher and ran as fast as my feet could carry me, pushing past people with the little force I had in me, I called out her name, I screamed her name “Sarah! Its Ummi! Baby wake up…” I shook her little body “baby please wake up…” I looked over to the paramedic “DO SOMETHING! PLEASE I BEG YOU! Give her CPR! Do anything but save my baby!” he looked down as if he lost all the strength to face me. I buried my head in her chest, wailing and begging God to give her back to me.

I wiped off the dust from her beautiful face, hoping to see her eyes twinkle just once, waiting for her to tell me “Ummi I’m okay” I could bear the pain of a thousand labors but not of losing her, I could feel my heart starting to give out or maybe it was the blood loss, nothing mattered now.

They took her away from me and gave me a sedative, I fell into slumber in denial, I woke up hours later covered in bandages, still in my abaya, I looked over and saw the bodies near my room piling up, I could feel my stomach sink, my daughter was there… and here I was not comforting her.

I got up again still processing, looking for her like a madwoman, the nurses tried to stop me but what can a mother do? In that moment I wanted to die, I wanted to exchange my life for hers, she didn’t deserve this, she deserved to go to school, play in the streets with her friends, and ask me to cook her favorite maqluba. What cruel nation deems fit to murder children in cold blood? In self-defense of what? Innocent children and women? So many families torn apart, women left children-less, children left orphaned, for what?


Nawal Zia is an in-house writer at Perspective.

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