It was the first week of the month of Ramadan, May 31st 2017, and a regular summer day in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the place where I had come from my home, Afghanistan, to study. At 1:30 pm, I was on my way to my performing arts class. That day, I woke up late and did not get the time to check my social media, so I tried to log into Facebook. The moment I opened it, all I could see on my phone screen was pictures of bloodshed, injured bodies, pieces of meat flattened on the road, and an exhausted Kabul City, with its sky full of soil and ashes. The headlines of news were things like “A Terrorist Attack in Kabul, over 80 Killed and more than 380 Injured.”
My entire body started shivering, and my legs were no longer able to work. I could not breathe. I collapsed on the floor with tears and harsh feelings of hopelessness. The first thing that came to my mind was my family. I imagined them among the injured bodies or even the dead ones. Those painful thoughts made me cry uncontrollably. I desperately reminded myself “Padar (father). MUST call Padar.” I called him repeatedly, but he was not picking up the calls. That made me even more afraid of what could have happened, and those negative thoughts persisted and magnified. The faces of my sisters and my innocent little brother were appearing in front of my eyes, but my heart was sure that my thoughts were wrong. When I did not get any response from my father, I checked my friend list and tried to contact my younger sister – in the family, she is the only one using Facebook – but she was active 2 hours ago. I sent several voice messages asking her to update me on her safety and the family. Then I messaged my Facebook friends in Kabul, but I was barely receiving replies. Some replied that they were O.K., but their friends were injured, and some died. I asked them about my family, but none of them knew.
At that point in my life, I was the most helpless person in the entire world. I kept thinking about the families who lost their fathers, sisters, brothers and mothers. All I could do, at that moment, was cry and pray. But then, my phone rang. It was my father. That call brought me into the present and brightened my exhausted soul. I picked up the call with all the sorrow in my voice, and asked him desperately, “Padar Jan, are you okay?” I could say at that moment, my only wish was to hear him. I could not wait to get a reply and again asked “Pader Jan, can you hear me? Please say something.” My father replied, “Hello, I am okay, Aziza. Don’t worry, everyone is safe.” I asked, “How is mother?” and I named all my sisters and my brother. Father confirmed that all my family members were safe. I asked my father to stay safe and avoid going to dangerous places. We both knew that nowhere in Kabul is safe now. An explosion can happen anywhere and anytime in that city, but still, he said that they would try. I hung up the phone, and I was relieved after hearing the news of my family’s safety, but fear did not leave me. The fear of the next explosion, the next painful experience and next sorrowful day persisted.
Three days later, it was the funeral for the victims of the explosion. And there was another explosion. Again, calling my father, texting my friends in Kabul and again drawn into deep fear and hopelessness.