By Shafaq Rahimi
It was a pleasant sunny morning. I was enjoying the breeze coming out of the window beside my work desk. I was reading an article about increased insurgency when I felt a quake that toppled the paper stand on my desk. Then I heard the horrific sound of an explosion.
I jumped from my desk and ran to the corridor. The shock of the explosion was so strong that my office turned dark with dust. The Kabul Appellate Court where I work is almost a kilometer from the site of the explosion, but we all thought the blast had occurred in our neighborhood.
I noticed that our slim and tiny office guard was gripping his AK-47, courageously running down the stairs to block any possible terrorist entering our building and shouting to people to go to the safe rooms. I had seen him a thousand times but had never seen him move this way to to protect people.
For a split second I felt what it means to be a police officer or a soldier. My feet were trembling, but I was not afraid or worried about life or death. I was very alert and careful. I tried to call my fiancee, my family and friends to make sure they were fine and let them know that I was OK, but the mobile networks didn’t work well until one hour after the blast.
Forty minutes after the explosion, people were still clearing pieces of shattered window glass. The sound of broken glass grated my nerves. Then, the Etilaatroz Daily local news service broadcast the location of the explosion in Zanbaq Square and relayed an appeal from the Ministry of Public Health for citizens to donate blood at the Jamhuriat, Emergency or Wazir Akbar Khan hospitals.
I received word from my office to leave the area and go home. The Jamhuriat Hospital is located beside the building where I work, but I was so distracted that I walked all the way to Emergency Hospital to donate blood or be of help.
Extremism is sucking out our human essence.
On the way, I noticed that buildings and streets were damaged even a kilometer from the explosion. Windows were shattered, and shop and building owners were sweeping up broken glass.
At the gates of Emergency Hospital, people were trying to enter to find family members or friends who had been injured or killed, to donate blood or to help the security or hospital staff. I saw many patients leave the hospital with their heads or arms bandaged, and others with bloody shirts — those who had carried the victims.
I was barred entry. I walked away and wept helplessly on my way to the third hospital. I whispered John Lennon’s song “Imagine” to myself:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
I turned around because the nearest route to the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital was blocked to pedestrians — a frustrating security measure enforced after they had failed to protect the people.
Finally, I got to the third hospital, donated blood and tweeted to call on others to come to the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital. At each step I took, I felt how gloomy, polluted and irreversibly damaged this inter-connected world has become. Extremism is sucking out our human essence.
Shafaq Rahimi is from Afghanistan. He and his family took refuge in Quetta, Pakistan, during the Afghan civil war. They returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban and settled in Kabul, where Shafaq completed his education and is now working.