Ten years ago today, on the morning of November 21st, 2002, my friend Aluma rode the bus. Unfortunately that morning so did a suicide bomber who, carrying a belt packed with five kilos of explosives, boarded the bus in the neighborhood of Kiryat Menachem and blew himself up.
She was given a second chance at life. It wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter. She had to fight for it viciously and with unyielding determination. But that’s Aluma.
That morning she was riding the bus, which in most societies that are not subject to terrorism is a seemingly normal part of everyday city living. This bus was filled to overflowing with Jerusalemites on their way to school and work, many of whom would never make it to their final destinations.
My friend Aluma Mekaiten was one of those unfortunate victims on the bus at the time when the explosives detonated. She was sitting in close proximity to the suicide bomber and was deemed in critical condition when the rescue team arrived on the scene.
When she spoke to me recently, she told me of her out of body experience, looking down on herself as if from above, as she watched the Mada paramedics trying to resuscitate her. She was in a coma for nine days and talks of her feelings of seeing the bright light calling her to the next world. She remembers meeting people from her life who had already passed on, many whom had died untimely and unfortunate deaths, and of her being put on trial with her sins and merits all laid out before her very eyes. She feels at peace with herself.
But she chose life.
Tonight I was invited to attend a celebration to commemorate the second chance at life that she was given, or as she calls it: her 10th birthday party. Ten years ago she was REBORN. She was given the choice to live and she chose to take it. No matter how painful and how difficult a struggle it was, she fought.
The people who have suffered at the hands of terror, or who have been killed in terrorist attacks are often forgotten with time which is why it is so important not to forget. We hear the voices of the people in the south right now but their fear that a ceasefire will mean that the world will forget about them and that the issue won’t be resolved as the world goes back to their everyday life is a very real one. What if temporary quiet reigns? Will they be left to continue to fend for themselves when that imaginary peace bubble bursts again?
We are only human and it is in our nature to live in the present while looking towards the future. When the second intifada began, my mother attempted to remember the names of the victims, so as not to let their memory be lost from the past. She has a fabulous memory for names but even she had to stop when the number climbed above 500.
Today when the bus bomb went off in Tel Aviv, besides the obvious irony of the concurring events, I asked Aluma whether or not she still wanted to have her party tonight. She settled within me my wavering feelings of uncertainty. You know, those feelings of on the one hand feeling like I don’t want to let my life be controlled by terror on the other hand I am a mother and a daughter and a sister and I am true to myself.
She told me that she needs to live life. She has already been through hell. She makes the most of every moment in her life. She tells her mom that no one knows what will be from one moment to the next. Who’s to say that a piano wont fall on your head today….or a rocket? So why incapacitate yourself with fear and worry when really you should be making sure that every moment you have in this world is precious?
I can’t guarantee that I will make the most of every moment in my life especially knowing that I might sneak in a little game of solitaire at my computer tonight instead of washing the dishes. One thing I do know is that I will try not to be afraid and I will definitely be there with Aluma tonight celebrating her second chance at life that not everyone gets.